Finally finished The Woman in White. It took me sooo long to get around to reading it and then it took me sooo long to read it. Not because it’s bad, but I think it’s just harder to read long 19th century novels. I need a break from them. Or a readalong to make me keep up. Wilkie Collins though is an excellent writer. I’m not sure why he doesn’t rank up there with Dickens except I suppose Dickens managed more novels and more important ones, but Collins’ characters have a depth and subtlety I don’t think is found in Dickens or if so, not much. Even his maidenly, soppy heroine has a bit of a steel in her. Not a lot, but she perks up every now and then. That our hero chooses her over Marian is a sad thing. But it’s still true that big blue eyes and pretty blond curls will win over people for no good reason.
I had expected to enjoy Woman in White more than The Moonstone, but a large chunk of it takes place during an abusive marriage in which our pretty blonde heroine is bullied by a lout of a husband and this I don’t enjoy. Her too-lazy-to-be-truly-evil uncle is quite funny, especially during his portion of the narrative — like Moonstone, WiW is a collection of documents from different perspectives to tell the story — but I think not as funny as Drusilla Clack with her pamphlets and Betteredge was much more entertaining than Hartright, which now I look at the dates, makes sense. Moonstone was eight years after Woman in White. The Count is a wonderful character, so vividly drawn throughout. His sentiment, his culture, his attachment to his little pets, all lend him a complexity seldom found in villains and certainly not found in his partner. More Pesca would have been good and another scene or two with Hartright’s family I think would not have gone amiss, although it’s certainly a long enough book. Both main narrators are exceedingly thorough in their narration.
And the long and short of it is, if you only read one Collins, I would recommend The Moonstone over The Woman in White, but they are both worth reading, so why choose only one? I believe I will read more of him in the future. He was a great writer, lively, entertaining and far less cloyingly sentimental than Dickens. I need to go back to Our Mutual Friend, but the brother is becoming a jerk, so I find it tough to go back. I forgot I have one complaint: showing a gloomy lake, perfect for a crime scene, and then not having a body show up there is just wrong. Oh, and the ending is very conveeeenient, but that happened a lot back then.