Posted by: Natalie | February 17, 2010

The Woman in White

This morning’s task was to finish my book. It’s embarrassing how long it takes me to read! I actually started the book (please don’t snigger) on boxing day! Yes, it has actually taken until the 17th of February to reach the last page. Its not too long a book – 627 pages in all, I’ve read longer. But as much as I adore reading a good book, I am useless at actually finding the time to read at my pace.

The only explanation I have is that I completely get lost. When I read something that strikes me, I can spend hours at a time doing nothing but read. I visualise and analyse everything in finite detail, often turning back pages and re-reading to re-live the experience created. This means I tend not to read unless I can guarantee myself some quality time with my imagination! That first half hour before I seize each day is not enough and leaves my story disjointed and loosing meaning.

‘The Woman in White’ was different however. As much as I relished each page, it is written in a series of accounts from different characters, making it easier to put down and leave for a few days at a time, without loosing the essence of the story. I love ‘gothic fiction’. Mainly because I love how 19th century sensibilities could be so easily offended. I understand the sense of darkness and foreboding created through the subtle story structures and fill in any gaps with my own dark imagination. The same can be said of Du Maurier’s ‘Rebecca’, where a look from a person, a carefully placed word or two, or suspicions created from madness cause unease and sinister thoughts. They are a much more delicate and lady-like horror creations!

Wilkie Collins created this constant sense of unease and suspicion in ‘The Woman in White’. The story, in three parts, tells the tale of Laura Fairlie and the mysterious, yet unfortunate, Woman in White. Laura’s life is shredded uncontrollably thanks to a series of events based on the deepest love, the most underhand greed, the most ineptness of family ties, and the sheer fact that she is a woman. Marian, her half sister, is another classic female lead in fiction, a strong determined woman, content with her single status, who breaks the mould of Victorian convention. It is with her and the artist Walter Hartwright that, after years of anguish, her sister’s life is returned to her.

The Woman in White, met by Hartwright at the start of the book, seems to have some sinister key to the unravelling of Laura’s world. Her husband, Percival Glyde, and his Italian counterpart Count Fosco, seem to have some deep dark secrets, and the mere mention of this poor insane woman, is enough to send them into spirals of conspiracy. Murder is never far from their thoughts as the two underhand men strive to remove anyone who can undo them, including, if needs be, Laura herself.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a clear snapshot into Victorian life and their belief systems; the things they found offensive and improper being the main seed of the darkness explored. It is nothing compared to what we may find sinister and eerie these days, (that is for another day’s ramble) but I love the simplicity of it all. It is escapism at its best as very few contemporary novels deal with the issues conjured by the Victorian gothic author.

So, I have a very important decision to make; just what to read next! I have several books on my pile including Cranford, The book seller of Kabul, The Birds and Other Stories (along with the majority of my Du Maurier box set!), Brick Lane, and more. I would greatly appreciate any thoughts on these books or any other that you think I would enjoy, any genre goes!



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