Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 1860
Genre Fiction
Origin UK
Publisher Penguin
My Copy 50c paperback
First Read August 17, 2011

The Woman in White

E & I picked this up after reading Drood, the historical fiction thriller about Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and a mysterious underground mesmerist. While Drood didn't deliver on its initial thrilling promise, it certainly made me curious about reading a real Collins novel.

And why not? I love Charles Dickens, surely I would be interested in his friend and sometimes collaborator, right? Turns out, Wilkie is pretty good.

The Woman in White is billed as one of the first mystery novels, but it's a weak mystery at that. We know the villain has done … something … somehow. But we hardly find out the range of his dastardliness until the last fifty pages or so. If you're looking for a real mystery, you'll do better if you waited twenty years or so.

It's better to read it for a really decent range of characterization. The story is told in the first person by a series of 'witnesses', arranged like evidence in a court case. It's something like Bram Stoker's Dracula, or an epistolary novel. That slows the pace down a bit, but it's worth it for the occasional side character who picks up the pen.

Noted on August 30, 2011

The bond of friendship which united Percival and myself was strengthened, on this occasion, by a touching similarity in the pecuniary position on his side and mine. We both wanted money. Immense necessity! Universal want! Is there a civilised human being who does not feel for us? How insensible must that man be! Or how rich!

Quoted on August 30, 2011

No sensible man ever engages, unprepared, in a fencing match of words with a woman.

Quoted on August 30, 2011

But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse.

Quoted on August 30, 2011

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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