Author: Wilkie Collins
Year I read it: 2012
One sentence summary: In the (arguably) first ever English mystery novel, Collins explores class and family through the lens of artist and perfect gentleman, Walter Hartright, loving, losing, and learning about one family's strange past and how they could possibly connected to the woman in white.
Interesting fact: Dickens published it as a serial in his publication All the Year Round.
Three reasons to read it:
- It's a 700 page, Victorian page-turner. This mystery is so much more than "whodunnit." The characters, the motives, the psychology - they're all so riveting.
- Collins far exceeds his friend Dickens when it comes to female characters (and, in my opinion, his prose in general... but I don't want to offend). I remember thinking I was reading a cross between Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte.
- Looking back on this book I remember and cherish it not for its resolution, but for itself. The process is a beautiful one.
One reason you maybe shouldn't:
- Although I applaud Collins advance of the female character, I felt he gave into the trope of women who were either beautiful & helpless or ugly & active. Why not a woman who both has agency and is desirable? [There were times I almost wished Walter had fallen for the active Mariann rather than the stunning Laura. But only almost.]
“I have always held the old-fashioned opinion that the primary object of work of fiction should be to tell a story.”
“Women can resist a man's love, a man's fame, a man's personal appearance, and a man's money, but they cannot resist a man's tongue when he knows how to talk to them.”
“This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.”