Just a word of warning. I expect I may get semi-spoilery about Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White in these weekly readalong updates. These posts will be mostly of interest to those readers who are also participating in the readalong, or have read it before.
This week we read from the beginning to the End of Hartright’s Narrative, which in my edition was through to page 122.
I’m just going to throw some thoughts out without much organization whatsoever.
– Walter Hartright, drawing-master, was the narrator for this portion of the book. He’s a sort of everyman, who generally does the ‘right’ and gentlemanly thing but still experiences feelings of hurt pride and self-doubt. I thought he was decent enough . . . and then he fell in love at first sight with the angelic and beautiful Laura. I find this amusing and if I were to address him, I’d say: “Oh go on Walter, you go on pining over the beautiful girl and wallowing in your sorrow that you can’t have her. I’m going to focus on the more interesting characters over there.”
– Interesting character #1, Marian Holcombe, half-sister and protector of her sister Laura. I love how intuitive she is about people, and how content about her own lot she seems. I wince when she denigrates her own sex, but overall she’s first-rate. I hope she gets a narrative. I haven’t looked ahead to see if she does.
– Interesting character #2, Anne Catherick, a.k.a. The Woman in White herself. As the person of mystery, I am definitely intrigued to find out more of her story. We know at this point that she was kept in a private Asylum run by Sir Percival Glyde, Laura’s intended. How she got there and what happened to her there and the full story of how she escaped is still unknown.
– Mr. Fairlie is also hilarious in his passive-aggressive, hypochondriac way.
– I have to disagree with Walter Hartright when he says, “We go to Nature for comfort in trouble, and sympathy in joy, only in books.” He says this at the time that he has met Laura Fairlie and is saying that the delight she gave him surpassed all the natural beauties around them. But then he expounds on the impersonal relationship between man and Nature. To an extent, that can be true, but I know that I have derived comfort from being in Nature, in the quiet, among forests, or other completely natural place. So, I disagree with you there, Walter, but I give you a pass because you are in the full grips of Victorian romantic swoon.
– The writing is great. As with Dickens, Collins’ descriptions are vivid and atmospheric:
The evening, I remember, was still and cloudy; the London air was at its heaviest; the distant hum of the street-traffic was at its faintest; the small pulse of the life within me and the great heart of the city around me seemed to be sinking in unison, languidly and more languidly, with the sinking sun. I roused myself from the book which I was dreaming over rather than reading, and left my chambers to meet the cool night air in the suburbs.
I can just picture a summer night like this.
I feel like I haven’t said much of note about the book, but it’s early yet. Also, I hope for the future readalong posts to do my write-up over the weekend so this was all hastily done in the little time that I have on Monday nights. Easter kept me busy so I couldn’t do it this time.
I am enjoying The Woman in White very much and will happily continue on. If you have read it or are currently reading it, feel free to throw me any questions in the comments.