Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The Woman In White
Regarded as the first mystery novel, The Woman In White tells the story of Laura Fairlie, a young, beautiful heiress engaged to marry an older baron, Sir Percival Glyde. Before the marriage, a drawing master, William Hartwright, comes to Limmeridge House to give Laura and her half-sister, Marian Halcombe, art lessons. On his way to their country home, he crosses path during the night with a mysterious and troubled woman wearing all white.
Her appearance begins to unravel the secret of Sir Glyde, whom Laura Fairlie eventually marries. The marriage is doomed not only due to Glyde's obsession with keeping his secret in tact, but also because Mr. Hartwright and Laura Fairlie fell in love.
Throw in a truly terrific villian, Count Fosco, maids, cooks, doctors and lawyers all giving their own versions of the truth and what's left is an authentic mystery loaded with plot twists and turns developed through many interesting characters.
The author, Wilkie Collins, was a contemporary of Charles Dickens, although I have to admit that this was the only book of his I'd ever heard of. He's a talented author and uses several different voices quite convincingly to tell this story.
I appreciated the book more from a historical standpoint than its storytelling. While I found the first two-thirds of the book to be intriguing the climax of the story unfortunately happened with several hundred pages still left for the much less fun wrap up. Oh, several things still needed to be figured out for us readers to be completely satisfied, but, in spite of Collins putting Mr. Hartwright in danger a few times, the book became a little too comfortable and predictable. I knew the smooth ending was coming, but it took a long time to get there!
I'm glad I read it, though. It's very readable for being written in the mid 1800s, more so than Dickens, I would say, and an all-together entertaining story.