The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1-20)

*I am reading from the Bantam Classic paperback edition of The Woman in White. My edition has around 783 pages, so my half way mark for the sake of the read-along is around 390 pages. As I have stated before, I am posting my reactions to the first half of our read-along assignments as I finish that portion, but I will not be posting my final thoughts until the indicated dates. With that in mind, other readers may want to refrain from reading my post until they have also finished the first half.*
Some thoughts while reading Part 1 of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White, first published in 1860:
1.      I often find books written by English authors in the 1800s to have more intricate and rambling prose than I prefer. At times, The Woman in White fits this mold and at other times I find the prose delightfully simple. Oddly enough, I sometimes find myself thinking in the language of the day. Either way, Collins has certainly stirred my curiosity with the mystery and suspense that is developing in the novel. What is the story behind Anne Catherick?
2.      I have read that Charles Dickens was a friend and mentor of Wilkie Collins. I have not yet read any Dickens, but am wondering how their writing compares and who I will prefer. Somehow my money is on Collins, although he is the lesser known.
3.      Mr. Fairlie and his nervous condition have succeeded in getting on my nerves. I can certainly understand the trials of suffering from anxiety, but come on. He is a horribly ineffectual guardian for Miss Laura Fairlie. Also, it bothers me that Miss Fairlie does not have any conversations with this man on her own behalf regarding her money, marriage, or feelings. Does anyone else wish they could just run around this man’s rooms talking loudly and slamming doors for fun…much like Marian does in the following passage: “I dashed into Mr. Fairlie’s room-called to him as harshly as possible, ‘Laura consents to the twenty-second’-and dashed out again … I banged the door after me; and I hope I shattered Mr. Fairlie’s nervous system for the rest of the day.”
4.      I find myself feeling so outraged as to the state of women’s rights during this time. Who should we blame for Laura having been compelled to still marry Sir Percival? After all, he did give her the option of ending the engagement. Is it her own fault, her dead father’s, that of Marian’s for sending Walter, her true love, away, or society’s at large? Marian certainly blames herself; an idea I also find disconcerting: “Between those two young hearts I had stood, to sunder them forever, the one from the other-and his life and her life lay wasted before me, alike, in witness of the deed.” I, obviously, lay the blame with society.
5.      What is the deal with Count Fosco? Is it possible that he is the one who actually enticed Sir Percival to marry Laura as a means to recover his wife’s Fairlie inheritance?
Enough writing for now, I must get back to reading the novel. This nineteenth century soap opera has certainly reeled me in. But first, I have to share this: When I went looking for pictures of Collins, I was immediately struck by his resemblance to my own estranged father…weird…very weird indeed. J


7 thoughts on “The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1-20)

  1. I love the questions you bring up. I read this in May of last year and my thoughts were similar. I'm excited to hear your thoughts when you finish. I loved this book. I thought the first half was a little more rambling than the second half. Good luck!

  2. I've read some Dickens, and I can say I prefer Collins. His stories are more interesting. I totally agree about the state of women's rights, AND Mr. Fairlie. I loved when Marian slammed that door and I hope he was quite shaken by it!

    Also, as I've said in my post and others, Count Fosco is SUPER creepy.

  3. I find that Collins' writing is FAR different from Dickens. I don't care much for Dickens, but I am loving this novel so far! While some sections seem a little too long (the beginning was really slow for me), I think it is beautifully written.

    Ha! I love that scene with Marian and Mr. Fairlie. It made me laugh out loud so I had to explain to to the husband.

    I haven't figured out Fosco, but since I ended when he writes an entry in Marian's diary, I have to think he's up to no good.

    Thank you for participating!

  4. I too find the beginning a little rambling. But I really like the story so far. You really get a good look and distinct look at the characters character. I really can't wait to find out what Anne is really like, and what the “secret” is. Onto reading the rest.


  5. definitely some interesting questions, I am really curious what exactly is up with the count! he has me a little confused, and I find it hard to believe that the countess has really “given up” so much like Collins wants you to believe… should be interesting!

  6. I detest Laura's uncle, he is so self-centered… and yet it's believable that someone like him could exist in those times. As for Laura, she frustrates me in her blandness, but I truly adore Marian and I find Count Fosco almost as intriguing as Marian does. And I hope Anne has some good dirt on Glyde- like he was born with a tail or something that would get him burned at the stake… or at least shunned from all good society.

  7. It is odd because so many of you have found the beginning of this novel a bit slow while I actually found the last 1/4 of the book to be the slowest part for me. It is always so interesting to see what similarities and differences various readers will find with in the same novel! I commented about this on someone else's blog, but thought I would ask here too…does anyone else find themselves picturing Count Fosco as Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazzard? Or are most of the rest of you too young to have watched that show? Short, plump, all white suit? Maybe I am showing my thirty-something age again! LOL! 🙂

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