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!

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