Monday, 27 September 2010

Book Review: The Woman in White

The Woman in White The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Publisher: Vintage

Category: Classic Crime

Challenges: R.I.P. V Challenge, 2010 Challenge (TBR)

Synopsis: Marian and her sister Laura live a quiet life under their uncle's guardianship until Laura's marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. Sir Percival is a man of many secrets. Hence, Marian and the girls' drawing master, Walter, have to turn detective in order to work out what is going on, and to protect Laura from a fatal plot (synopsis from BookDepository)

My Thoughts: The book certainly lives up to its inclusion in the R.I.P. V challenge. It manages to include several mysteries as well as intrigue and things that go bump in the night. In this respect I found the book very satisfying. The intrigue kept me going. Who was actually the bad guys and how were they bad? And why were they bad?

Now I’m going to put on my militant feminist hat and get on my soapbox. I really disliked the way Collins portrays Laura. At no real point in the book is she strong. Not only is she strong, but she is all fainty. I HATE fainty females. Yes I know this book was written in a different time and that I shouldn’t project my 21st century sensibilities onto a book written in 18?? But the thing is, Collins does make Marian stronger. She isn’t all fainty. So he obviously knew women could be capable. That said none of the female characters in the book are all that  strong. They are either very scheming or plain weak. The only righteous character in the book is Walter Hartright. Yes the other men are hardly admirable characters either (do not get me started on the uncle, I might hit something).

All that said, I really enjoyed the book. I really enjoyed the narrative style adopted. The story is told primarily by Walter, who takes on the task of storyteller and he addresses the reader directly. The other narrators are compelled to do so by Walter, to tell of the events that he wasn’t there to see himself. This makes the story seem somewhat more real. It makes you think it could really have happened.

Although it has taken me a while to read this book, it is actually an easy read. Unlike many other classics (and remember I like classics) the language in this book isn’t hard to understand. It is an intriguing story and a great mystery. I highly recommend it!

Purchase The Woman in White from BookDepository

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Copyright ©2010 Zee from Notes from the North. This post was originally posted by Zee from Notes from the North. It should not be reproduced without express written permission.

9 comments:

Lyndsey said...

I really enjoyed this too, and thought exactly the same about Laura. Though what did you think about the end? Seemed a bit dashed off to me... Almost like a 'woke up and it was all a dream' level of absurdity!

Zee said...

I definitely agree with the end being a bit abrupt. I got a bit of a wait...what...come again feeling.

irisonbooks said...

I've been really excited about reading this book and I plan to read it before the end of the year. The fainty female is making me consider whether I'm too excited at this point?

Zee said...

The fainty female is only a small part of the story. I don't think it should deter you from reading it. It was definitely worth reading!

Kailana said...

I had been hoping to read this at some point this year but haven't succeeded yet. Maybe sneak it in, but otherwise I am looking forward to trying it next year

DesLily said...

I read this last year and enjoyed it too. because the language isn't hard to read it should be one others who don't read classics should begin with.

Amanda said...

My thoughts on the women in this book was that if they were portrayed differently, he couldn't have sold the book. Or at least he would have had difficulty, and it probably wouldn't have been very popular. Even Marian, he had to give her a "masculine" face in order to "account for" her strong personality, and then also give her weak moments. Otherwise, people would have considered her unbelievable. In today's world, if I find characters unbelievable, I dislike the book, and I'm sure people in that time period felt the same way. Collins was primarily a writer, and while I believe he was fairly feminist (for the time) in his views, he could only do so much before he sacrificed his narrative. Authors, if we want to sell, are bound to stick within a certain amount of current standards, especially in writing popular fiction, which he was doing.

I don't mean to just go on and on, but I guess I just find it difficult to understand when we judge classics by modern standards. It's like getting up on a racism soapbox about Twain's use of the word N*gger. Do I like him using that word? No. But I understand why he did.

btw, I absolutely adore that cover!

Zee said...

Amanda, I totally get what you are saying and while reading the book I really did try to give him the benefit of the doubt. I generally try and not judge classics against our standard because I think that way we loose the point. What did bother me I guess is what you allude to, Marian is made masculine in order to justify her actions and that does annoy me.

Jenny said...

I know what you mean about Laura and Marian - all through the book I kept hoping Walter was going to fall for the ugly clever girl, but (alas!) he did not.