The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Sometimes it is so damn hard to put your mindspace in the right place to enjoy a piece so far out of your frame, and this is definitely one of those books.
I knew a bit of what I might expect, after all, I did enjoy reading Drood and so I got a real hankering to read an actual extremely popular novel by such a wild character in a modern book about Wilkie and Charles. But that's neither here nor there. I probably wouldn't have ever picked this one up without it, though.
On to the novel at hand. It's a mystery! And if I can believe wikipedia, it's one of the very first ever written, and considered to be one of the top 100 novels ever written! Whoopie! I mean, that's all great and all. But did I enjoy it? Actually... I did. To a degree.
Of course, the mental gymnastics were pretty strenuous. After all, I have to suspend belief that Laura was NOT TSTL. Tstl? Yes. Tstl. Every step of the way, she made the most horrible decisions, either by not listening to her heart or not having a brain in her head. If this were a mystery novel of even 20 years after its written date of 1854, we'd have killed this one off like a redshirt for sure. Therefore, I am UTTERLY AMAZED by the ending. I've never seen such brilliant contrivance to make such an unlikable airhead pull through to the very end, have her love, her fortune, and her unwitting revenge upon all who had assailed her.[pull through to the very end, have her love, her fortune, and her unwitting revenge upon all who had assailed her. (hide spoiler)]
I mean, WOW. Wilkie Collins is a MASTER.
That being said, I thought the Count was pretty much awesome. Everyone except for Laura and Walter managed to transform themselves from cardboard cutouts into genuine people full of both good and bad.
Sometimes the descriptions were cumbersome and made me wish for a bit of a Hemingway Edit, but that's a complaint I can make about any of the literature of that day. There was one notable exception. I loved our enlightenment of Count Fosco's animals. It's details like this that turn a sensational-ish novel into something a bit more memorable.
I swear, though: Laura was consistently tstl. Thank GOD for her half-sister. Miss Halcombe was pretty damn awesome from start to finish, and I agree 100% with the Count's esteem of her.
The one thing I cannot be more pleased about, after finishing this, is the fact that there wasn't some long-drawn-out court scene so reminiscent of modern police drama or mysteries. We had the hint of it in the beginning, and it could have gone that way, but I can't be happier with the outcome as it actually occurred.
There was a hell of a lot of expanded plot in this novel, and it was all so logical and well thought out. I'm just so damn AMAZED that the whole society in which they lived was actually able to FUNCTION, ya know? How could people trust each other as much as they did? How could people be so INNOCENT? I mean, really? Really? Was it a function of the black and white nature of the novels of the time to pop all of these features out at us in stark and glowing detail? Or was it just Wilkie? Or was it in actual fact, a real piece of the society in which they all lived?
I'm primarily a sf/f/horror fan, but I truly HAVE read a ton of traditional classics. And yet, I'm still forced to set myself into a Victorian England as if it is some truly alien society so foreign and strange to us. It's funny. I should know better. Life is WEIRD.
View all my reviews