Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White
Wilkie Collins

My lack of posting recently has been due to the behemoth called The Woman in White. At first I was daunted by the novel's 600+ pages, and I feard that its length presaged a boring work. I needn't have feared. The Woman in White is not only a classic of literature, but also the most impressive, satisfying "mystery thriller" I've ever read. DaVinci Code, indeed.

Admittedly, The Woman in White began somewhat slowly, but by page 50, I was hooked. The story mainly involves, not surprisingly, a woman in white encountered by the first narrator at the novel's onset. Who is she? Why does she only wear white? What is her terrible secret? The first two questions are answered fairly early in the novel, but don't expect an answer to the last until nearly the end.

The novel has many strengths, and not many weaknesses. The structure of the novel is particularly compelling; our first narrator is Walter Hartright, who narrates the story until he can no longer narrate it. Marian Halcombe continues it, until she no longer can, and so on. This technique advances the plot while maintaining a high level of suspense. I soon found myself reading for hours on end, despite having more pressing concerns, just to find out what would happen next to these fascinating characters.

These characters are, in my mind, the other great strength of the novel. What reader doesn't feel admiration for the ugly, manly Marian Halcombe? Who isn't utterly enchanted by the gallant, the obese, the utterly villainous Count Fosco? The world needs more Count Foscos, regardless of his lack of morality. I think I will name something Fosco. Maybe my next dog.

The only weakness I could find in the novel is a minor weakness at that. The "falling action" if you will, drags on a bit, and in an effort to tie up some loose ends, some elements seem a bit contrived. However, such is often the case when it comes to the genre, and it wasn't contrived enough to warrant an indignant outburst on my part. I finished The Woman in White content and pleased in my reading.

In a nutshell: If you enjoy a good mystery, you owe it to yourself to read The Woman in White. Who doesn't love a big, fat Count who loves his white mice and cream puffs?

Bibliolatry Scale: 5.5 out of 6 stars

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