Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White is said to be the very first detective novel written and dates from 1860. Wilkie Collins presents first person statements from a number of different witnesses in order to expose a complicated case of subterfuge. I remained enthralled for nearly 25 hours by the audiobook narrated by Ian Holm [AudioGO], which won an Audiophile Earphones award in 2011.

Summaries of this classic are so widely available (Wikipedia entry here) that I'll go directly to why I recommend this book. As with other works that were first published in serialized installments (from Dickens to Armistead Maupin), the episodic quality is part of its appeal. Piecing together a puzzle through multiple viewpoints; wrongful incarceration in a mental institution; a dastardly evil count; and volatile family secrets are some of the other attractions. I also liked the characters of Walter and Marian very much, even though Laura Fairlie seemed too weak and insipid to have inspired such devoted love and loyalty from them.

I did not like some of the Victorian-era viewpoints, such as the belief that no woman could create art as good as that of a male artist, but that didn't detract from my overall enjoyment.

Readalikes: Fingersmith (Sarah Waters) for a lesbian take on Victorian skulduggery.

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