Friday, 22 July 2011

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

"My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody" Mrs Catherick, The Woman in White, p489, Wilkie Collins, 1868

A gentle 19th century mystery...I think that's how I would describe The Woman in White, penned by Wilkie Collins in 1868; and coincidentally another story that unfolds using the medium of letters and journal entries.  I suppose a bit like modern day blog posts...albeit long ones.  A great bedside-table book to pick up and read a couple of chapters, before turning in for the night.

Don't get me wrong though, there's a lot going on in the novel, beginning with exciting meetings early on in the narrative. Lots of strong characters...and equally weak grown woman treated as an eight year old girl might be, in the most infuriatingly, patronising way by everyone that she associates with. I had to keep reminding myself 'when' it was written...I won't give too much away as I think the novel is all about plot.

I couldn't help but feeling that I was watching a soap opera in the throws of a very exciting plot-line, that was being stretched out just a little bit too far, before actually reaching the climax.

Then I realised why.  It was common practise in the 19c to serialise novels in journals and periodicals. I remember reading that this was how Charles Dickens first published The Pickwick Papers.

I mentioned this to H and she confirmed my suspicion,  asking if I'd noticed that all the chapters ended on cliff hangers...I hadn't...possibly if I had I would have been a little less impatient.

This  was a great read, I always wanted to go back for more, but I think (again baring in mind when it was written) that the author could have truncated it just a little bit when adapting it from  the serialisation.

For now...I think I'll take a page out of Mrs C's book...I don't want to keep my buttered toast waiting...


  1. I liked the book. And I LOVE the quote. I love stuffy demanding old British women. Well... in fiction anyway.

  2. Glad you managed to get to the end! I know it's quite long (and at times long-winded) but I think it's woth it foe the mystery, melodrama and the redoubtable Marian!

  3. This sounds like a lovely read ... the kind of book to curl up with on a Sunday afternoon or similar relaxed time of the week.

    Sorry I've been absent from your blog recently Debby - I took an unintended online break, so I'm in catch-up mode.

    I'm off to read the rest of your recent news.

  4. I agree Vmichelle....I'm not sure if I'd want to meet Mrs C in real life...!

  5. Thanks it was a good recommendation Caz. I totally agree about Marian...she was such a great character I wanted something more for her than looking after her sisters children...maybe her own detective agency and her own children..!!?

  6. Hi Tracey...I've really missed you, glad you're back hopefully feeling refreshed.

    This is a good winter read, all chance meetings in grave yards and boat houses...but I won't say any more...