Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Woman in White

Well, the Energizer Bunny finally ran out of batteries. What, you don't get my reference? Shame on you, that means you missed reading one of my posts. :-) In my "It's Monday! What Are You Reading?" post for the week I suggested that The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins had been the inspiration for the Energizer Bunny. It was the book that kept going and going and going....The good thing about having finished it is that I can scratch it off my TBR list (it's been on there forever) and it counts for about three challenges that I've got going!

So, now that it's done, I'm sitting here scratching my head and trying to figure out just exactly what all the fuss is about. Why does just about every review posted on Visual Bookshelf praise this thing to the skies? You got me. It's a somewhat decent little Victorian novel (no, wait, make that an extremely long Victorian novel). There are parts that are good. The scene where Hartright first meets the lady in white and helps her escape--very nice and quite atmospheric (very in keeping with Victorian gothic and not too overdone--unlike quite a bit of the rest of the book). I love the character of Marian although I, as a 20th/21st Century woman, find it deplorable that such an interesting, intelligent and courageous woman is relegated to the position of spinster and described at the beginning as ugly. But, then such is the lot of most intelligent women in Victorian times. And I find Frederick Fairlie to be absolutely hysterical even though he is a whiny, self-centered twit. I mean, how can I resist such declarations as

"Why--I ask everybody--why worry me? Nobody answers that question, and nobody lets me alone. Relatives, friends, and strangers all combine to annoy me. What have I done? I ask myself? I ask my servant, Louis, fifty times a day--what have I done? Neither of us can tell. Most extraordinary."


"'Let Lady Glyde's maid come in, Louis. Stop! Do her shoes creak?' I was obliged to ask the question. Creaking shoes invariably upset me for the day. I was resigned to see the Young Person, but I was not resigned to let the Young Person shoe's upset me. There is a limit even to my endurance."

Without these two characters, I would have despaired of the whole thing. I thought that the shift in narrators would help me out. And, at the beginning of each section it did. The change was (as they tended to say in Victorian times) as good as a rest. For the first several pages of each narration...but then that particular part would go on and on and on...and there I was again, bored stiff.

It may be that I've read too many mysteries that have built on what must have been a fairly original idea for Collins at the time....but the twists in the middle and at the end just didn't make this book for me. Decently done, Wilkie, but surely you could have accomplished your task in about 150-200 less pages. Cut to the chase, man, cut to the chase! Two and a half stars out of five.


Suzanne said...

My Classics group is reading this one next October ... I've heard good things about it as well but your review also has some good points. I'll start this one a little early to make sure I'm finished in time for our discussion.

Unknown said...

I read The Woman in White for my FB classic book group last month (review: http://manoflabook.com/wp/?p=386), I thought it was a wonderful book, reminiscent of Dickens.

I thought the book was gripping, engaging and hilarious at times.

Well, to each his/hers own - that's what makes this world so wonderful :)