Monday, 17 January 2011

Readalong: The Woman in White - Part One(ish)

Part one of this readalong covers the first half of the book, which in my edition (the Penguin one; ISBN 9780141439617) took me to page 302, or the end of part VI of Marian's narrative in the second epoch.

Except...I haven't got that far yet, because I was drinking watching Inception three times in a fortnight distracted by something shiny lazy.  This is like being back at uni and sitting in seminars with a rudimentary knowledge of the text, blagging like hell and attempting to appear knowledgeable.  I am currently on page 133 in Gilmore's narrative in the first epoch.  Oops.  I'm posting because this is the last day for the first half of the readalong, but I plan to follow it up when I've actually got to the midpoint noted above.

And what makes this laziness even weirder* is that I am really enjoying the book.  It's up there with Dracula in terms of Victorian novels that I find easy to read and which have a rollicking good plot as opposed to, oh I don't know, an opening that goes on for three tiny font pages about how much mud and fog there is in London (really, Dickens, London was a bit dingy in the 19th Century?  Colour me stunned).  When I did bother to pick the book up, I found pages flying by, at least in Walter Hartright's narrative; Gilmore's is a bit more stilted and correct, but that's fitting for the character.  Much as I like novels that are assembled like this - different narratives, either from people recording things after the event or writing journals - it's a bit like the epistolary novels of the 18th Century, taken to another step.  It means that the story can be continually covered even when the 'main' character isn't present while it still being first person, but it also means that there aren't heroines fainting and yet remembering everything while they're unconscious (yes, Pamela, I am looking at you, with a sidelong glance at Fanny Hill).

This isn't to say that what I've read so far is perfect.  There have been more than a few occasions when I'm brought straight up against the fact that I'm reading a book written in the 19th century, with all the casual racism (look at the amusing Italian short bloke, ha bloody ha) and sexism this entails.  Just as I was thinking that Collins was pretty awesome from being anti-corsetry, we then get the introduction of Marion who is criticised for being a bit too mannish despite her fantastic figure.  April at Good Books and Good Wine has done a drinking game for the novel (which I am v tempted to try except my liver is still annoyed with me for the weekend's excesses**) and I am definitely agreeing with the second part of Take One Drink.  I don't care if it's being done is a self-deprecating way, please to stop suggesting women are useless.  Especially as I think most of the women in this are pretty awesome so far; there's a nice lack of "no, little lady, you'd better not do that, wait for a man", and Marion, at any rate, is currently included in all the Drama.

The thing that has been especially striking me are the similarities with Fingersmith.  I know this is intentional, as Sarah Waters based her novel on this one (and kind of on Collins in general), but it is a bit disconcerting at times.  I kept expecting Mr-Fairlie-the-Hypochondriac-Uncle to produce his collection of erotic books instead of his Rembrandt prints.  Even though I know this book isn't going to follow the exact plot of Fingersmith, it means that I'm constantly second guessing things and expecting plot twists and unlawful incarcerations in asylums and all sorts of other things which may not happen. (NB: I highly recommend Fingersmith; the prose alone is worth it, but when it's coupled to a plot that made me squawk in surprise at one point then it goes to a whole new level of fantastically amazing).

So far, all I can really do is make conjectures about what's going to happen.  I have spent a few pages yelling "oh my God, you idiots, this all clearly means X is happening" - my favourite of these being "who could the ghostly woman possibly be?"  Oh, I don't know, someone with a propensity for dressing in white?  Who could that possibly be?  The moments when the characters are standing around being puzzled are, at least, believable and not long winded like some Victorian literature, but being a couple of steps ahead of the characters can be annoying when you're clearly not meant to be.  Anyway, predictions:

- Laura and Anne are Secretly Sisters because Mr-Fairlie-Laura's-Father was a Scoundrel.  There are references to Anne not knowing who her father was/is, and she and Laura are meant to be practically identical - the point hasn't been laboured at all - so if this doesn't turn out to be a Super Secret Twist I may be a little annoyed.
- At some point Marion is going to go Hypochondriac Uncle with some Suspicions and she is going to be shot down.  I can see Hypochondriac Uncle being a problem.  If not, he'll die at a convenient point, possibly aided by Sir Percival.
- There's going to be an old switcheroo with Laura and Anne and the asylum.  I'm not even sure how this would work, I just think it's going to happen and there will be lots of misunderstanding and panic and derring do.

Notes, or Random Thoughts While Reading
- Why did they invite a Weeping Angel to the wedding?  At least in the dream, there's an "angel weeping" at the ceremony (80) which sent my mind straight to Doctor Who.  Steven Moffat has clearly destroyed my brain.
- "[h]e has fought successfully two contested elections; and has come out of the ordeal unscathed" (83) so at least one of our politicians hasn't been claiming for a second home, putting in a moat, or spending a small fortune on a duck house.

* Apart from the Inception watching, because ohmygod I love that film.
** Awesome as Inception is, watching it while downing three double gin and tonics may not be the best way to spend an evening <- responsible adult talking there.

1 comment:

  1. Ooh this does sound good. I have it on my Victorian and Gothic reading challenges list. I'm not reading it yet, but I'd love to keep checking in with your read-along.


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