More Bookstore Adventures…

My daughter is on winter break this week. Today the snow is flying, but yesterday we made it out to lunch and a movie and stopped in to the only used book store in my area. I had 5 selections that I had decided to trade in and we came home with 6 new selections with $0 spent! I found clean, like new copies of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins (which was my favorite find of the day), The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot (because it was such a nice used copy and Allie has such good things to say), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. Exciting, but perhaps it is time to stop adding to the TBR pile and start reading!!! 🙂

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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (21- )

I think that Wilkie Collins is an admirable mystery writer. I am glad that I read Collins’ The Woman in White. I really liked The Woman in White! And yet, at the end I was a little disappointed. I was swept up by the first ¾ of the book, but then found that the last ¼ dragged on for me. I feel like Collins went to great pains to tie up every lose end possible in the story which I felt was somehow detrimental to the novel as a whole. Nothing was left to the reader’s imagination. There was no lurking shadow of suspense like I still felt at the end of Rebecca. Collins purposely uses the various narrators to bring the reader very close to the mystery and yet doesn’t seem to give the reader enough credit for being able to use that technique to solve some things on their own. I was also not fond of the story line at the end that revealed Count Fosco, as I understand it, to be some sort of a mole inside a secret European society. Perhaps this is because I was unpleasantly reminded of certain contemporary authors’ more recent obsessions with these sorts of societies in their writing.
Another observation about English novels from the 1800s: I am bothered by the gentlemen of a certain title or class in this society, like Sir Percival – who appeared to rely on the earnings of his family estate to survive financially, as they frolic aimlessly through life. Why did society not require these men to have a real occupation, especially when they were sometimes facing financial ruin? How could these people occupy themselves day in and day out, year after year? No wonder they designed intricate plots of conspiracy and matchmaking and such…they were no doubt bored out of their minds half of the time.
Favorite Character: Marian!! Her section of narration was also my favorite. She was certainly a woman before her time. I can understand why Count Fosco was so attracted to her. And, I have to say that Mr. Fairlie also entertained me despite his nervous condition having gotten on my nerves.

Wilkie Collins 1824-1889

Favorite Quote: “I left yesterday to decide … and yesterday has decided. It is too late to go back.” Miss Laura Fairlie
 

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