Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

the woman in white
wilkie collins
c. 1859
643 pages
completed 11/6/2008

*may contain spoilers*

I'm pretty sure this is my new favorite book. Even though my sister, the librarian, told me it was super boring. I'm not really sure how she thought it was boring. This was the first great suspense novel, and was written in a very interesting style. Instead of one narrator who knows the whole story telling it to the readers, it is written by many narrators in order to always have a first person account of the action.

There were a few things that I found very interesting about this book, things that really dated it. For one thing, I found the descriptions of Laura and Marian's physical features as a reflection of their characters. Laura was sweet and submissive and therefore she was beautiful. Marian, on the other hand, was strong and independent and therefore she was ugly. Not an ugly personality, in fact she was incredibly gracious and intelligent and loving, but she was physically ugly. It might not have been the author's intent for the physical descriptions to reflect their character, but that's what I took away from them.

What I felt really dated this novel was the Secret. Obviously, this was written in the 1800's and naturally it describes life at that time that is very different from life now, but in order to keep this secret Sir Percival was willing to completely destroy the lives of two different women, to shut them away in Asylums. This secret is kept hidden from the reader for so long and built up so much that when it was finally revealed I was kind of let down. And I was shocked when I learned that this "crime" was considered a hanging case when it was committed. It's interesting to know I'm not the only one who felt this secret did not match the build up it received. I looked into the musical adaptation of The Woman in White, and there the secret has been changed, probably in order to make it more sensational (albeit, A LOT of the story has been changed in the musical). In the musical, the secret involved rape and murder, whereas in the original novel the secret is nothing more than a forgery.

I am very interested in looking into more by Wilkie Collins. I'm glad we were finally introduced.



Lezlie said...

I like books with multiple first-person narration. I'll have to put this one on my list.


Veronica said...


Absolutely you should. It was SOOO good.

Sara said...

I'll admit that I never finished it - I found the beginning slow and difficult to care about and so didn't continue. I'm glad my prediction turned out to be wrong and that you ended up enjoying it. Maybe I'll try it again some time. 8)