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Old 06-13-2019, 02:26 PM   #31
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It's been (a little over) four weeks now. What are your thoughts on the book? If you've finished, how did you like the selection as a whole? What were your favourite parts and least favourite aspects of the book? This being a mystery, did you have guesses as to what was actually going on and did they turn out to be correct? At what point in the book did the truth dawn on you? How do you think this book relates as a literary selection and how do you think it relates as 'an unusual viewpoint'?
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:47 PM   #32
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I've actually done really good with staying on track reading this, though I'm not finished yet. I am over 80% through though and on the home stretch. I'm really enjoying this and think I'll be done within the week. Since I'm not done yet I will temporarily bow out of the thread until I am done so that anyone can feel free to discuss end-book spoilers now that the time for discussing the complete book is on.

I will say that though everything hasn't been revealed to me yet [major spoilers coming now so stop reading this post if you're not about 4/5 or farther into the book yet!] (I'm at the point where Hartright is discovering the marriage registry forgery) I think I did pretty well with my initial guesses considering I now realise I was more or less still in the 'prologue' of the book and hadn't even really met Sir Percival yet. I still can't completely shake the feeling there might be a surprise reveal later because I'm so used to them from modern mysteries and thrillers. Having originally had Miss Halcombe on my suspect list, for instance, has the possibility of her and/or Hartright's narratives being unreliable and one or both still being a culprit in some way with Laura/Anne who is currently living with them as the victim. However, I think it much more likely that the story is taking the much more straightforward path of all the narratives being reliable and all the coincidences being truly coincidental.

Anyway, I feel the story has been masterfully told so far. For instance, every new revelation in turn still seems to leave a question of if the new reality is this or that. I find that most mysteries, after revelations start to come, clear up in my head quickly. But with this book it's not the case. Collins has the power to continue a story that is supposedly becoming more clear in a just as befuddling way as it was prior. A major one was Laura's death, which immediately had me thinking that I'd discovered the truth that she'd been switched for Anne obviously, leaving Laura still alive. Then a little later the book brings this possibility up itself and continues to make me question whether, just perhaps, Laura maybe really had died and Hartright and Miss Halcombe were now living with Anne taking on the identity of Laura.

I'll wait to answer the questions on what I thought of the whole book until I'm finished, but I'm looking forward to it.

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Old 06-13-2019, 02:49 PM   #33
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Have most people finished or should we use spoiler tags for sensitive info?
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Old 06-13-2019, 02:51 PM   #34
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Have most people finished or should we use spoiler tags for sensitive info?
I can only speak for myself, but don't worry about spoiler tags for me! I'm going to wait until I finish the book to read any posts past this.
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Old 06-14-2019, 10:25 AM   #35
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Aaand I've finished.

Yesterday I was off so had time to read, and I tend to read the last part of a book (sometimes much) faster than the first part. Still it took me until the wee hours but once I was close enough I was determined, lol.

The ending I thought was a bit less enthralling and a bit more perfunctory than the rest of the book, but still I loved the book and perhaps I only think that about the ending because the book makes possible so many alternatives but before the end it had already all but spelled out what was going on with the Laura, the Count, etc. and there were no fresh end-game surprises. The Count's narrative offered basically nothing new and only served to officialise what was already known. The only 'new' revelation near the end was the political secret society, but it was almost beside the point as it didn't really have much of anything to do with the story we were invested in and only served to give a reason for the Count to confess and to later be killed and thus not 'get away with it all'.

The story was amazingly labyrinthine and Collins did a very good job of revealing most things and having it all make sense, however there were some loose ends that surprised me since so much care was taken with having most of the dangling plot threads be well explained.

First, Laura was sure that she had gone to see Mrs. Vessey in London during the time the Count was about to have her admitted to the asylum, which contradicts Mrs. Vessey being sure she didn't. It turns out she didn't, but the discrepancy was never mentioned again. I suppose it could be explained as a delusion while she was drugged, but it was presented as if there were some kernel of truth and clue in her being so sure she'd visited Mrs. Vessey.

Second, it was never explained why, oh why, did the late Mr. Fairlie, Laura's father, think so much of Sir Percival as to basically promise his daughter to him? This is a major point, as the late Mr. Fairlie wanting Laura to marry Sir Percival is the impetus for absolutely everything, and I was waiting with bated breath to find out what in the past made Mr. Fairlie do that.

There may be a few others I remember in course.
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Old 06-17-2019, 12:10 PM   #36
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I was going back through my reading spreadsheets and my Goodreads review of the book and discovered some interesting things:

I first read it in 2010 as part of the Mobile Read Book Club. I gave it three stars and the following review:

Quote:
I can tell that Collins got paid by the word, and I can also tell which chapters were more heavily influenced by his own drug use. But I did enjoy the story on the whole. I still think that both Collins and Dickens were better when they wrote together, but I am glad to have read this.
I read it again in 2013 (and I have no idea why) and again gave it three stars but with no review. I read Dan Simmons work Drood, which loosely connects both Edwin Drood and The Woman in White in a half-baked fanfiction narrative, but still does not explain to me why I revisited the title in 2013. At any rate, I enjoyed it both times. My spreadsheet indicates that I gave this 3.5 stars, but as Goodreads still forces me into whole stars, it ended up with a 3 there.

My favorite quotes are still those below about women. They amuse me as Collins split most of his adult life between two different women concurrently. I wonder if he felt himself doubly trodden upon by two women or if his sentiments are genuine.

Quote:
“Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper.”

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

“Women can resist a man's love, a man's fame, a man's personal appearance, and a man's money, but they cannot resist a man's tongue when he knows how to talk to them.”

“There are three things that none of the young men of the present generation can do. They can't sit over their wine; they can't play at wist; and they can't pay a lady a compliment.”

"No man under heaven deserves these sacrifices from us women. Men! They are the enemies of our innocence and our peace - they drag us away from our parents' love and our sisters' friendship - they take us body and soul to themselves, and fasten our helpless lives to theirs as they chain up a dog to his kennel. And what does the best of them give us in return?”
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Old 06-19-2019, 01:02 AM   #37
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That's a great selection of quotes, astrangerhere, and the thought of relationships with two women at the same time throughout Collins' life give a twist to thinking about the female characters of the book. Though Laura was Hartright's love interest, maybe it could be said that Marian was his intellectual interest. I thought it almost risque for the time period that the book ended in a sort of threesome despite the chastity of Marian. Each couple's relationship in the three was deep and fulfilling in its own way.

While we're on the subject of the women in particular, after having finished the entire book, I do wish Marian hadn't been so sidelined after her illness. It is nice that she and Hartright both took turns working towards the truth of it all and helped each other at times, but Marian is such a great character and it was a little sad to see her fade to the background for the less interesting Hartright to return and save the day at the end.

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Old 06-20-2019, 08:48 PM   #38
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I have finally had some time to do background research about the genre of sensation novels and Victorian society and compile notes on this book. I have a lot of thoughts swimming around in my head right now, but I think I’ll start with addressing how this book fits the theme of the month, which was to capture an unusual point of view.

I think you did a great job with this nomination, AnotherCat! Thank you for recommending it! I loved how the book was told by multiple characters similar to how witnesses would testify in court. I suppose Collins was inspired to use this format from his legal training. I liked how the characters represented a variety of people besides the main characters such as servants, doctors, clergy, friends and family members. I also liked the variety in which the view points were told by the individuals, ranging from personal written testimonies to diary entries to letters. Even the church records, inscriptions on tombstones and words on a death certificate were important evidence.

There was no omniscient narrator. I think the use of multiple narrators made the story seem more immediate and that the reader was more present and engaged in the plot as it is told. I think that it helped to contribute to the urgency one feels in reading this book and wanting to unravel the mystery. Each person’s viewpoint raises new questions, and you are eager to know how all the pieces fit together. The constant shifting of narrators without an omniscient voice also contributed to a sense of how much could you trust the narrator and whether their testimony was reliable. Things and people aren’t always what they seem!
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Old 06-20-2019, 09:02 PM   #39
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I think it will be fun for you to review your thoughts as the book progresses. I also took many notes as I was reading on what I thought might happen so I could look back on them at the end. It's not something that I typically do (mostly I just highlight passages), but I'm trying to be more aware of what my thoughts are while reading.
Did you have fun reviewing your notes, sun surfer? I did. I think I discovered that Collins used a lot of foreshadowing and sometimes he was very direct in hinting what was coming and one needn’t question it too much. For example, I loved the line when Walter is trying to figure out how to deal with Fosco when he decides he must consult his Italian friend Professor Pesca and he says “The professor has been so long absent from these pages that he has run some risk of being forgotten altogether.” Why yes embarrassing to admit that I had forgotten that he existed! Thanks for the reminder, Walter! It seems so obvious now that Pesca would not have had such an entertaining introduction at the beginning of the book if he weren’t to make an important reappearance later. His role was more than to just introduce Walter to Laura and her family. He must also return the favor to Walter to save/regain his life.
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Old 06-23-2019, 10:57 AM   #40
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Did you have fun reviewing your notes, sun surfer? I did. I think I discovered that Collins used a lot of foreshadowing and sometimes he was very direct in hinting what was coming and one needn’t question it too much. For example, I loved the line when Walter is trying to figure out how to deal with Fosco when he decides he must consult his Italian friend Professor Pesca and he says “The professor has been so long absent from these pages that he has run some risk of being forgotten altogether.” Why yes embarrassing to admit that I had forgotten that he existed! Thanks for the reminder, Walter! It seems so obvious now that Pesca would not have had such an entertaining introduction at the beginning of the book if he weren’t to make an important reappearance later. His role was more than to just introduce Walter to Laura and her family. He must also return the favor to Walter to save/regain his life.
I had the same reaction to this character. I too had forgotten all about him.
The use of Professor Pesca was very clever—and in hindsight—obvious. 😉 But that is the very complaint made by Holmes when Watson describes the detective’s chain of logic as being absurdly simple after it has been explained to him.
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Old 06-23-2019, 08:25 PM   #41
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I enjoyed the book and found it was an easy read with flowing prose and good characters, that in part possibly because it could be classed as popular fiction of the time (as his friend Dickens work could also have been classed, but I am not suggesting that Wilkie Collins is of the same importance as Dickens). The independent narratives and the many trails in the story added to its interest for me plus the reflections back as reminders of what had come before but were still important.

With respect to the ending I wondered if the story had just got soggy and Collins was not able to generate the drama of a big reveal at the end of the "whodunnit" type or if there was another reason. I have since read his The Moonstone and the construction is very similar with independent narratives, and there are parallels in the story. For example, both have a detective: the amateur Walter in The Woman in White and Sergeant Cuff in The Moonstone (who does not solve the crime) and the main male character being attached to two women. My feeling is that Collins either planned for these stories to have ordinary winding up the story type endings rather than climactic ones or did not ever think of the possibility of having such climactic endings, however I would have thought the former more likely.

I do not read many detective or crime/mystery stories so cannot really comment on where I feel it fits in to the history of those and how new its style was except to take on board that it is so said . I did wonder if the book could really be classed as important literature but given the claims of its place in the history of mystery and detective literature and the fact that it has survived for around about 150 years (and not really age) I can class it for myself easily as being at least important popular literature.

LATE EDIT: My feeling is that Collins either never planned for these... corrected by deleting "never" and adapting rest of sentence for meaning to be clear (hopefully ).

Last edited by AnotherCat; 06-25-2019 at 07:19 PM.
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