Sunday, April 4, 2010
A Book Revisited: The Woman in White
A Book Revisited is a weekend series hosted here. If you'd like to join the meme, just grab the image above and post about a book you've read in the past that (as far as you know) has had zero or little mention in the book blogosphere. It must be a book you enjoyed and recommend. I understand that it's sometimes not possible to remember everything about a book you've read years ago so just write a brief summary or review and leave a link in the comment section below.
I'm aware that The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins has been mentioned before in many book blogs but I'd just like to add my own two cents because I love this book and it would be wonderful if more people would read it. Its been on my list of favourites ever since I first read it in 2001. I clearly remember when that was because it was the year I got married and I remember staying up all night reading it. We had just moved to Bangkok and we were living at a serviced apartment. My husband was annoyed to wake up at 4am and find my reading light still on. Now I've read a lot of wonderful books in my life but this book is the only one I remember being literally unputdownable. The funny thing is Mr.B read it soon after and yes, you guessed it...the same thing happened! He stayed up all night reading it too. I guess it just has that effect on people and the mystery is so riveting you just can't help turning more pages.
It's amazing that this book has stood the test of time since it was first serialized in Britain from 1859 to 1860. No wonder every chapter ends in a cliffhanger. It appeared in book form for the first time in 1860 and was an instant bestseller but harshly criticized by high brow critics for its lack of literary merit. It was considered quite 'trashy' in its day. Books of this genre earned the term of 'sensation novels' and The Woman in White is probably the first and best of its kind.
Walter Hartright, a penniless drawing teacher is employed to teach the beautiful heiress Laura Fairlie, and her half-sister Marian Halcombe. Hartright and Laura fall in love, but Laura is engaged to marry the unpleasant Sir Percival Glyde, a friend of her late father. Now what are the two young lovers to do? That's the basic plot line but there's also a mysterious woman in white who keeps appearing in the novel. There's also some secrets, mistaken identities, theft, amnesia, locked rooms and asylums, plus the most fascinating villain I've ever encountered in a book in the character of Count Fosco. Marian Halcombe is also a wonderful heroine. Though she's a plain spinster, she's intelligent, cunning and resourceful. These are definitely not the stereotype qualities of an old maid in the Victorian era. The Woman in White is such a classic and satisfying novel. I envy the reader who has yet to read it.