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SudoKris

The Woman in White

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I'm just about half-way through The Woman in White, and while I'm generally very fond of both 19th-century novels and sensation literature, I can't really get into this one. I don't really know what it is... I like most of the characters well enough... I find the secret interesting... I want to know what really happened before the story set in... And yet I repeatedly find my mindn wandering while trying to concentrate on the plot. Is it only me? Or did anyone else find think this, too?

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I woke up in the small hours early this week, to hear a snatch of this book being read (Possibly on 'World book Club'). After just a few sentences I wanted to read it again.

 

There are only a few books that I have bothered to re-read, and 'Woman In White' is one of them. It's not likely to be re-read soon, there are too many books I haven't read for the first time, but it will get a third reading one day.

 

I have no idea why you have had trouble reading it, Sudokris, I hope you have overcome the difficulty now.

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I find Wilkie Collins' books real page turners and have loved The Woman in White since I was at school. It is long, though, and really needs to be read for several hours at a time so that the reader can get a good hold on the plot. Well worth persevering. To me he has more understanding of women than Dickens although he usually bottles out before he fully commits himself to the feminist cause.

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I've been trying to read this for more than a month now and I'm still probably less than a quarter through. I don't seem to be feeling any kind of connection for any of the characters whatsoever. I'm on the point of putting it to one side for a month or so and starting on Brave New World.

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lucyb - if you are struggling with Woman in White, I should give it up for and try again at another time but leave it longer than a month. Now is obviously not the right time for you - several years can make a huge change in our taste in books. Hope you enjoy Brave New World.

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I started reading this a couple of days ago for my local reading group. We meet every week and have elected to read around 100 pages each week and then discuss it each time we meet.

 

So far, so good. I have only read 75 pages, so I'm still with the first point of view, but already I like Collins' style of writing. It seems to be quite pacy yet has a quality of depth about it that is rewarding.

 

I do hope this continues. Having read the comments here I thought this was going to be difficult from the start.

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There were some additional replies to this thread from 2006 that you might be interested in, Barblue

 

Bernadette 10th March 2006, 01:50 PM

I just finished this book and LOVED it!! I really enjoyed the way the story is told by different characters, each one picking up where the other leaves off. And I thought the ending was so wonderful. Then I had to go and mess it up by reading some literary criticism.

 

 

I have John Sutherland's book, "Who Betrays Elizabeth Bennett?" and one of the chapters is on "The Woman in White", specifically addressing the question of why Laura is never given the opportunity to narrate her share of the story. Well the discussion about this was interesting, Sutherland stated that Collins wanted to retain a certain aura and mystery around Laura, especially with regards to her marriage to Percival Glyde and the physical side of it.

 

But then he makes the comment that Collins intentionally made Laura and Marian "step" sisters instead of full blood sisters ( if that's the correct way to phrase it) so that Walter would be able to marry Marian after Laura dies, as she surely must because she has such a weak and fragile constitution.

 

I didn't see that at all! The book ends with Laura in good health, she'd even given birth to a son and I didn't catch any hint of any sort of impending illness. I wonder how Mr. Sutherland knows that this was Collins' intention?

 

Does anyone else feel that Marian and Walter were destined to be together?

 

I have spoilered this as Bernadette later revealed that she didn't know how! - I have not rescued those 3 posts!

 

r3nu4l 4th July 2006, 01:02 PM

I must try reading this again. I loved the Moonstone and a few years later bought the Woman in White. I started reading it but stopped and never went back.

 

I'm reading Ulysees at the moment and to be honest I feel as though I will need some light reading after that so it will be a while before I get around to the Woman in White again

 

belwebb 4th July 2006, 02:39 PM

I too put The Woman in White down after I'd got less than a third of the way through. Just didn't engage with it.

r3nu4l 2nd August 2006, 09:58 PM

I didn't read the spoilers, thank you for the warning. This book is on my TBR list along with a number of other 'classics'. I read and loved the Moonstone so hopefully, I will enjoy this too. Glad to see that some people have read it more than once, gives me hope, I won't jettison it from the TBR pile just yet

 

Hazel 15th October 2006, 07:17 PM

I am about 130 odd pages in - it's taking me longer than normal as this is being read for uni next year and I have to underscore, note people/events and write chapter summaries as I go, which means paying closer attention than normal. (Yes, David, I am writing on the book!) However, just wanted to say that I am really enjoying this book. Walter is clearly a snob and it is a delight to see him retain his snobbery around the much wealthier Fairlie family. I feel really intertwined in the characters and connected to the plot. Collins, is obviously a master storyteller but it is so refreshing to read such a well written and engaging plot. Modern writers would do well to remember that books primarily tell a story. A hopefully interesting one. That said, I am a 19thC fan and slightly biased. ;)

Hazel 19th October 2006, 04:08 PM

Just finished this book today and Oh my word, what a good read. I don't think in the history of my reading I have ever 'mouth agaped' so many times. Such a good book, such a good plot, fantastic characters - what more could you ask for.

 

My favourite villain -

 

definitely Mrs Catherick

 

I can't believe it has taken me so long to read this book, but I am definitely going to be bumping Collins up my TBR pile now. Only think is the next book (s) that follow are sure to be a let down unfairly!

 

Mungus 4th December 2006, 09:16 AM

I've just finished The Woman In White and had a mixed reaction to it. 'The Classics' usually leave me cold but every so often I try again, and I'm glad I did with this one as I found it very pacy and readable. The characters and writing style didn't seem to have dated at all, this could have been a modern historical novel.

 

However, once I got the the Third Epoch, I found the whole think lacked pace and drive.

 

Walter goes off on some endless pursuit of The Secret and Count Fosco confesses what by then is blindingly obvious. Maybe modern morality and reading sophistication has taken the punch out of this part.

 

 

Lots to think about though, and I'm sure lots to write about if one is studying the book. Count Fosco was my favourite character, charming, dastardly and fat!

 

Hazel 4th December 2006, 02:08 PM

Originally Posted by Mungus

However, once I got the the Third Epoch, I found the whole think lacked pace and drive.

I agree but in 19th C lit terms the third part would have been the sowing up of the loose ties and concluding the tale - so it was just a matter of all that we knew being settled and known by the characters within.

 

Mungus 4th December 2006, 03:16 PM

Originally Posted by Hazel

I agree but in 19th C lit terms the third part would have been the sowing up of the loose ties and concluding the tale

 

I didn't realise that this was a common thing in books of that time, I'll let him off then! I thought afterwards that when the book was originally published in episodic format, the recapping might have helped refresh the memory of the readers.

 

Hazel 4th December 2006, 03:27 PM

Originally Posted by Mungus

I thought afterwards that when the book was originally published in episodic format, the recapping might have helped refresh the memory of the readers.

Yes, of course that too, but the 19th C readers liked to have a solid beginning, middle and end to their fiction - all things had to be resolved. I like that style myself, I like that the whole tale is contained within the pages of the novel. It seems like a perfect story in a sense.

 

TWIW has certainly left an impression on me and many more Collins' novels have found their way onto my wishlist. Are you going to try any more?

 

Mungus 4th December 2006, 04:14 PM

Originally Posted by Hazel

TWIW has certainly left an impression on me and many more Collins' novels have found their way onto my wishlist. Are you going to try any more?

 

I've set myself a bit of a reading and re-reading list to open my horizons and clear my TBR pile and there are a few classics on there, including Dickens. If I get on well with them I might branch out into more classics but I've struggled with so many in the past that I'm reluctant to commit!

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Many thanks for the extra threads Flingo. I have not read the 'spoilers' because I don't want to spoil my reading of the novel. The enthusiasm that comes through these later threads is very encouraging.

 

I have read my statutory 100 pages for this week, but I was soooo tempted to carry on reading to the next point of view, that of Vincent Gilmore. The trouble is, if I do this, I might give away something of the plot in our discussions next Tuesday. I just didn't want to put the book down, but I did, reluctantly.

 

I have to say that the reading of a book is heightened by many things. Apart from what the author does with words, the paper it is printed on and the binding also contribute, for me, to reading pleasure. I have a copy I found in a secondhand bookshop; it is a hardback published by Blackie & Son in The Great Writers Library series. The book opens easily, the paper is calendered so it is smooth to touch, in a slightly off-white shade so there is no glare and the font used is easy on the eye and dark, making it easy to read. As you might guess I am in reading heaven with this book.

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I was about to go looking for the lost replies to this but I see Flingo has been kind enough to save me the trouble - Thanks Flingo :flowers: Now I can go ahead and add my own thoughts.

 

I enjoyed it very much. I did know some of the story from seeing some of an adaptation ages ago on television and there was quite a bit of foreshadowing of events as well, which I think modern readers would pick up on much more.

 

The story was certainly original for its time and you can see how people would have been gripped by it. I think it has lost some of its impact over the years as there will always be paler copies of Collins' genius, but there's no doubting it's rightful place as the forerunner of sensation novels and detective fiction.

 

I read an Oxford's World Classics edition with notes on the text which highlighted changes Collins had made between the serialised version, the proof and the final 1861 version. I think reading these has distanced me more from the story than it usually would. I don't know if this will make sense, but, reading these notes, Collins' artifice became more obvious to me, i.e. the way he constructed his story. I came away wondering if maybe he was too clever for his own good? I read the introduction (by John Sutherland, of which more anon) and Dickens, Colllins' friend, seemed to hint that as well. I didn't want this thought to affect my view of the story, but I'm afraid it did (the difference between five stars and four). Anyway, still a great book with fantastic characters (superb characterisation), which will be re-read.

 

Having read Bernadette's comment I will also spoiler my reply:

 

 

As I said above, John Sutherland wrote the introduction to my copy of the book and he made similar comments about Walter, Marian and Laura living in a very unusual situation. I don't agree with his inferences but I suppose he has found proof to support his argument and we will have to agree to differ.

 

From this very brief introduction to Sutherland, I've come to the conclusion that his views are probably very controversial and I doubt I would agree with a lot of what he says/writes. I wonder do many critics take the view of this novel that he does?

 

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I finished reading this yesterday. What a great story. As I've already said this is a local reading group choice and several members have been unable to put the book down, so finished it a couple of weeks ago. One or two commented on the final third being laboured, since the plot was understood. They felt the last 100 pages were superfluous - I did not. I could not put the book down yesterday, or the day before, and wanted to devour every single word.

 

The characters were powerfully written and I think that was because we get so many of the characters' points of view. Even the long virtual recapping by Count Fosco is not a waste of words in my opinion because I too found him a complex and fascinating character.

His final words added to that characterisation and also added poignently to his respect and attraction for Marion that had been hinted at so many times during the telling of the story.

 

I am intrigued by the comments on the menage-a-trois of Walter and the girls. I have to admit I would have been convinced that at some point Laura was going to die and Walter would marry Marion. Their bond seened to be so very close, whilst that of Walter and Laura was one of strong physical attraction and desire. Unfortunately one of our reading group mentioned Walter's marriage to Laura, so I knew that was on the cards before I got to it.

 

One thing that I did wonder about Marion was her parentage. At one point it states her appearance is almost gypsy like. Then, she has dreams that parallel Walter's exploits. And at other times she says she knows certain things. Did anybody else feel that she had some mystical powers through her blood line of her father? I like to think she was half gypsy and could foretell some of the future. But then, why did she not foresee what was going to happen to Laura - or did she but her illness got in the way. Fascinating.

 

I was fascinated to think, whilst reading Collins writing, that he is contemporary of Dickens. The style, for me, was so very different. The individual points of view, the more flowing and less inhibiting language all contributed to a much pacier read.

 

I now have to get on with The Moonstone before we at BGO go on to the next read.

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Just finished the Woman in White. I also like the beginning, middle and end structure that Victorian fiction has, with all the loose ends tied off by the end of the book. This one is the same - even Professor Pesca reappears right from the beginning and turns out to have an important role to play.

The female characters seemed to be a bit washed-out after the first half, especially Marian, who

 

 

starts off as a roof-climbing daredevil full of intelligence and courage and ends up as a sidelined character whose role in the story seems to be as a chaperon for her sister.

 

 

I agree that Mrs Catherick is a great villain as is Count Fosco. I thought the happy ending

 

 

where Walter and Laura returned to Limmeridge as its new owners

 

 

was a bit forced, but it still worked and was appropriate - I think the book was meant to be a melodrama, with heroes and villains and a happy ending, not a realist novel.

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I think the book was meant to be a melodrama, with heroes and villains and a happy ending, not a realist novel.

 

Eng Lit hat on now - it is actually classed as sensation fiction. Of course, there are melodramtic incidents but it is classed as sensation, and WIW is generally thought of as the forerunner of this genre. 'Sensation' in the way that the character experience physical effects of sensation through the events, as do the readers.

 

BTW, Bea, are you doing or planning on doing the 19th C lit course through the OU? It's just that a lot of the books you read are on my course this year - Portrait of a Lady, Woman in White, Far From The Madding Crowd...I might have asked you this before...

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BTW, Bea, are you doing or planning on doing the 19th C lit course through the OU? It's just that a lot of the books you read are on my course this year - Portrait of a Lady, Woman in White, Far From The Madding Crowd...I might have asked you this before...

 

Hi Hazel - sorry for the long delay in replying, I didn't realise this post was here. I must have added my entry and never looked at this thread again, probably because I had moved on to the next book.

 

I was thinking about the 19C course earlier this year, and I realised that even if I couldn't make my mind up immediately I would have to start reading the books immediately in order to have read them all by the start of the course. So the next half dozen books I read after that were the books on the 19C list. In the end I didn't go for it as I am being very careful with money at the moment, but I enjoyed reading the books. The fact that I was reading them with more concentration than usual also added to the enjoyment, surprisingly. I've found that with other books I've read since, I've appreciated them less as I didn't have that feeling that I must pay attention and absorb as much as possible. It could be that when we read for pleasure we often read less deeply than we realise unless we are really carried away by the work.

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The fact that I was reading them with more concentration than usual also added to the enjoyment, surprisingly. I've found that with other books I've read since, I've appreciated them less as I didn't have that feeling that I must pay attention and absorb as much as possible. It could be that when we read for pleasure we often read less deeply than we realise unless we are really carried away by the work.

 

That's very true Bea. The most memorable books for me this year, apart from the odd 5-star read, are the ones I read for the OU. Some of them have become firm favourites especially FFMC, Madame Bovary, Woman in White, and Portrait of a Lady. Studying them really forces you to stay in the book more fully.

 

Hopefully, you will able to revisit the OU again soon. I don't think I'll ever leave them!

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I thought I had come back to this after I finished the book but I see I didn't. I loved it. It was one I looked forward to less than the others as the back cover made the woman in white sound ghostly and I don't enjoy ghostly things, but I *loved* it. Definitely a new favourite for me. I was on edge the whole time, you just couldn't tell what was going to happen or when, or how. Fabulous stuff. What else has he written?

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What else has he written?

 

The Moonstone was a BGO read a while ago Hilary - you could have a look at the discussion on that if you fancy some more Collins. Really glad you loved TWIW - it was a fantastic read.

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After having read The Moonstone with BGO members (and I really liked that one), I just had to read The Woman in White. I wouldn't be able to tell which one I enjoyed more, they are both marvellous.

First, I enjoy Wilkie Collins telling the story in so many voices, having it told in an "I" version throughout and still giving us the best view of every scene. I like that about his stories. Definitely have to read another one.

Then, I also loved the story itself, the characters, they really came to life. I could just imagine the way they looked like. The description of both the characters as well as the countryside etc. was just great.

What a fabulous author!

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Well, I waited a while and went back and read it. Don't know why I couldn't get into it previously, this time there was no problem.

 

Because of the title I was expecting it to be more of a ghost story and was a little disappointed that it wasn't, however I still found it an enjoyable read.

 

Count Fosco is a very Victorian villain - manners in public and malice in private. However,

 

 

because he is so correct when the narrator is describing current events and we only hear about his dark side in retrospect, I found it hard to understand Marian's fear of him.

 

 

I think I warmed to Marian the most of all the characters, possibly because she was the closest to a modern day heroine who is perfectly prepared to do what needs to be done herself. This does get remarked upon rather too much in the text for me though. Would this be as an apology to the audience of the day? Would they have found this kind of woman so hard to take to?

 

I found I was becoming indifferent to Laura's ultimate fate by the end of the tale:

 

 

If she didn't care about it, why should I? Show some backbone, woman! If anything, I'd have been happier if she'd died and Walter could have married Marian with whom he seemed to have formed a more substantial bond. Style over substance - never a good call.

 

 

I didn't feel as if I knew enough about Laura to either like or dislike her. We only see her through Walter's eyes or through Marian's. Both of these love her and still we only get a watercolour image compared to, say, the oil painting that is Count Fosco. I would have liked her to be given a chance to put her side.

 

 

For example, WHY did she agree to marry Sir Percival Glyde? Because her father said so? Then why is this important. Can we hear what her father meant to her? Or what in her morals makes her do this? Or does she just enjoy being a doormat?

 

 

Reading over my comments, it sounds like I didn't like the book and that's not true. I wanted to find out what the secret was and enjoyed the journey. I have The Moonstone somewhere and will be reading that soon.

 

It has made me thing about my reading preferences. I have tendencies towards OCD and thought I liked all my loose ends tied up - bad guys squashed and heroes rewarded. This book does just that and yet I found it too neat and tidy and just a little twee. Maybe because the punishments/rewards seemed to happen because that was what was expected as opposed to consequences arising from their actions like, say Creon, in Sophocles' Antigone.

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