Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"The Woman In White" {by Wilkie Collins} Book Review

The Woman in White

Author: Wilke Collins

# of Pages: 720

Year Published: 1860


Genre: Classic

Summary: The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

Matthew Sweet's introduction explores the phenomenon of Victorian 'sensation' fiction, and discusses Wilkie Collins's biographical and societal influences. Included in this edition are appendices on theatrical adaptations of the novel and its serialisation history.

Book Review

"In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop … There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth … stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white."

Sad...but the average star rating for "The Woman in White" was only a 2.75. Now we must take into account that there were only seven of us that read it but I am a bit surprised it is that low even though I gave it a 3.5 stars.
I enjoyed the book club night so much. We were each given a character to come dressed up as and we played a fun version of Clue changed to be The Woman in White Board Game. Robin did such a good job putting this night together! Thanks for all your hard work and thought you put into the night Robin, you made it a truly memorable book club.
The Book
This book was the very first of its kind. It was first published in installments in a weekly newspaper for over the course of about a year. That might explain why it seemed to drag on and not seem like it flowed very well. It was a huge phenomenon back then just like Twilight was to us. This book was categorized as a "Sensation" novel and people had not had this type of story to read before. One other interesting point is that Wilkie Collins was good friends with Charles Dickens and they both decided to right a novel. Wilkie Collins wrote The Woman in White and Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities. In the Woman in White there are twists and turns and when you think the book is over something else pops up that you didn't expect. The two most memorable characters were Count Fosco and Marian Halcombe.
Count Fosco is a grossly obese Italian with a mysterious past, he is eccentric, bombastic, urbane, but also unfathomably intelligent and menacing. He takes especial interest in little animals, and keeps many birds and mice as pets. The Count greatly admires Marian for her intellect, so much that he is willing to compromise several weak points in his plan (such as allowing Marian to retrieve Laura from the asylum) for her sake. He is one of the first villains to be both evil and lovable.
Marian Halcombe is Laura's half-sister and companion, not attractive but intelligent and resourceful. She is described as one "of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction" by John Sutherland. I think she is the favorite character of all the ladies at book club. Wilkie Collins did such a good job at writing from a woman's point of view.
Wilkie Collins was pro women. He said he didn't marry because he didn't want to encumber a wife. This is probably why Marian didn't ever marry in the book proving that she didn't need a husband. I personally feel like she was cheated of having to know true love and having a family of her own.
Over all I am glad that I read the book. It is one that I will reflect on occasionally. Thank you Robin and Kelly for such a fun night with "The Woman in White".

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