Friday, 28 January 2011
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Having failed dismally to enjoy any English Victorian literature when I first gave it a go during my teenage years (the Brontes, Dickens, Shelley – I tried a few and gave up on all of them apart from Hardy) I labelled most writing of that time as boring, flowery and very long.
I eased my way into Victorian novels with Cranford last year which inspired me enough to give The Woman in White a try. Would my 16 year old self have enjoyed The Woman in White? Heck knows but I certainly enjoyed it today.
The novel more or less opens with a young man who encounters a mysterious woman dressed in white on the road to London, after helping this woman reach her destination, the man becomes embroiled in one very complex mystery.
As The Woman in White is classed as a 'Victorian sensation novel' there is romance, stolen identity's, strange foreigners, a secret society and an asylum. Its all good and intriguing stuff. As the novel is told by different narrators, all telling just part of the story, the reader is close to the mystery and has to solve it themselves by slotting all the narrators accounts together.
There are parts which rely purely on coincidence and can be a little far fetched but that's all part of the fun and the story is fast paced with injections of humour. That's not to say that it's all fun however. The plight and the treatment of women during that time is described well as is the shear ease of committing a person to a lunatic asylum.
One aspect of this book which did surprise me was the familiarity I had with Sarah Waters Fingersmith, even one of the plot elements. After reading this it is not hard to see how Waters drew inspiration from Victorian literature of this type.
I'm not ready to go out and try and read Dickens again but I will crack on with Jane Eyre soon.
I read The Woman in White as part of a read-along hosted by Allie over at A Literary Odyssey. Verdict 4/5
Posted by Jess