Monday, September 27, 2010

Reading The Woman in White, Part 1

When one has a book blog, it can be really difficult to blog (and it can sometimes seem quite pointless) when a dramatic slow-down happens on the reading front.

Such is the case with me. The last book I read and reviewed here was Beatrice and Virgil, TWO MONTHS AGO. In the meantime I've read part of Coop (all but 50 pages or so), and I'm almost halfway through The Woman in White, and I'm about 1/3 of the way into Great House, by Nicole Krauss.

To what can I attribute this stall in my reading?

Does it really matter?

The same old life stuff, for the most part. Nothing new. Quite frankly, I'm tired of whining about my lack of reading time, so I'm changing my approach. I AM reading. It's just slow. So in the spirit of reading deliberately and carefully, I'm going to bring you with me as I read Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White for this year's RIP V Challenge.

Keep in mind, Wilkie has had more than his 15 minutes of fame in the blogosphere. He's been on tour with The Classics Circuit, for one. He's had his own read-along! Bloggers everywhere love him! I am not quite sure I have the best skillz for bringing my readers along as I tackle a particular work in installments. I don't think for a minute I could do it as well or as thoughtfully as Allie from A Literary Odyssey. But, by God, I'm giving it the old college try or whatever.

As the nook flies, I'm on page 118 of 497 pages. At the pace I'm going now, Greyson may be walking by the time I finish, but I really am enjoying the book a great deal. There's a sort of lightness to this classic. It's just good, fun reading. Sort of brain candy for the classics set. I don't mean that in a derogatory way at all, I'm just surprised by the ease of reading and how quickly I do move through this book when I can sit down and read uninterrupted.

Here's a synopsis because I'm not feeling terribly succinct at the moment:
The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.
While this is an epistolary novel, it doesn't feel particularly lettery. The sections are written by different characters, but I've only read two sections, and they were each on the long side. This is not The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society where the letters are sometimes less than a page or run maybe 5-10 pages at the most. While epistolary novels are all fine and good, and generally speaking the shorter the letters the quicker I read, I just don't think that would work here. I find myself far more invested in the characters if they have room to stretch their fictional legs.

That said, I already have my favorites. Narrator of the first section--Walter Hartright, the drawing teacher--is just lovely. I was charmed by his details about his lot in life and the business exchanges that led him to employment at Limmeridge House. It's just these types of period details that really get my mojo going for classics.

For pure spunk, sass, and good humor, I'm a huge fan of the "ugly" sister, Marian Halcombe. Like most "good," pretty, flat characters, Hartright's love interest, Laura Fairlie, is a bore. I'm really hoping she poisons someone or something. Spice her up a bit. I'm a firm believer that many of the "good" characters in literature are the most super-dull ever. Look at Paradise Lost, for example. Satan, interesting and fun. God, not so much.  *Note: this is in no way a reflection of my own faith. So there!

But back to Marian Halcombe. She's quite a character (har!). She's clever, single, open-minded, outspoken. I'm looking forward to whatever ole Wilkie has in store for her.

So that's it! My thoughts on the first 118 pages of The Woman in White. I hope to knock off another hundred pretty quickly, so check back for more progress. If you have your own input into this novel, I would love to hear it!


  1. I'm going to categorize myself as a loser for not having read Woman in White yet -- I've heard so much and I've always been behind the eight-ball on it. I need to just stop being a zero, and start reading that book!! :)

  2. It has been such a long time since I've read this that I barely remember it. I really should re-read are such a bad influence. :)

  3. I love Marion!! And just wait - if you haven't met Count Fosco yet, he's one of the best villains I've ever read!

  4. I just started this. I'm on page 30 or something. Walter just met the 'pretty' sister. I'm not too impressed with her either. ("Look at me! I'm pretty! *blink* That is all.") I hope something interesting happens soon.

  5. I love the old cover you found. I've had a similar problem lately, spending two weeks reading a single book. My reviews lagged and my stats went down, but I don't care. I loved the book. It's fun to spend some real time reading.

  6. Every year as I start reading more and more posts for Carl's RIP challenge, I remind myself that I really need to read The Woman in White or Moonstone. I've never read Wilkie Collins, but I have one of these books somewhere in my house. I bought it a few years ago, planning to read it for the RIP challenge. Nothing like good intentions, eh? ;)

    If and when you're ready for a compelling, page-turner I can highly recommend Room by Emma Donoghue! I was barely two dozen pages in when I decided to throw it up on my recommends end cap at work. It's fabulous. I was up far too late last night reading. 5 am arrived far too early but my first though was to wonder when I could cram in a few more pages!

    Two words: Read Room!

  7. I totally agree with you about Marion and Walter - they were much more fun than other characters. I was reading this on Daily Lit last year, then just lost track of it. I downloaded a free copy on my nook, so maybe I'll finish it up soon.

  8. The Woman in White is a very slow read! It is worth it though.

  9. I have no input as I haven't read it. But I must say you're pushing me towards it. Ana sort of got me over the first hurdle--making me believe that I didn't need to be utterly petrified of this book. I'm looking forward to reading your future installments--I think you may just get me over the next hurdle, and have me actually picking it up.

  10. Natalie, you're not a loser! I'm just getting around to it, as you can see. It did take a little coaxing to get me to read this one. I expected something flowery, but that's not the case.

    Trisha, if it keeps going the way it is now, it'll be a re-read at some point. Things just took an interesting twist!

    Amanda, I haven't met Count Fosco but I've heard he's really the one to watch for in this book. Can't wait to meet him!

    Chris, it gets better. Lots of intrigue and weirdness. He will meet the Woman in White again soon which was pretty interesting.

    C.B., it's good to slow down sometimes! I'm not naturally a superfast reader. I think I like to savor my books a little more than that.

    Les, The Woman in White is one of those books I always see for RIP V and that's precisely why I read it. Rebecca is another one that I've put off for far too long. I don't think I'll get to it before the end of this RIP, but I'd like to read it before the new year. As for ROOM, I've heard nothing but good reviews. Heather is on me to read that one, too, so I suspect I'll splurge and download it to my Nook.

    Kim, I'm reading a free copy on my Nook, too. Really fun reading. I hope you can get back to it soon!

    Stephanie, it is a slow read! Not in a bad way at all, but it has forced me to slow down and savor a bit. Kind of like my experience reading Emma earlier this year.

    Debi, definitely no reason to be petrified of this one. It's definitely higher on the "fun scale" for classics. If you're at all interested in mysteries (which I'm usually not), this one qualifies. It's also been described as an early detective novel, for one of the character's reasoning skills.

  11. You've inspired me to pick up Wilkie. I am not reading The Woman in White. I am only 21 pages in but I think I can stay committed. I think you are right about not worrying how fast we churn out our reading endeavors. I think a person should read and enjoy and not worry about how fast. I am kind of the same way about worrying how many books I am behind, that I should have already read a ton of books just during the summer, or something to that effect. I think this behavior is due to some kind of insatiable need to devour the magic within books. But as you say, we are reading and I think that is what counts.

  12. I LOVE LOVE LOVE Wilkie Collins! When I was in a Victorian Lit class in college, we read No Name and Woman in White. A-MA-Zing! Marian is one of the best heroines ever and Count Fosco one of the best villains. But whatever you do, don't see the Masterpiece Theatre version before you finish this book. It will make you tilt your head like a golden retriever and say "Huh?"


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