A Side Trip to England

new 1001

I’ve been reading some side books for a little challenge around Valentine’s Day in a group on Goodreads. I used it to clear a couple books from my To Be Read piles on audio and Kindle. This was an early 1001 Books download on the Kindle that I realized would fit wonderfully in the challenge–another mystery from the author of The Moonstone, which I read last year. Here is my Goodreads review:

The Woman in WhiteThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The elderly lady, when I was presented to her, proved to be Miss Fairlie’s former governess, Mrs. Vesey, who had been briefly described to me by my lively companion at the breakfast-table, as possessed of “all the cardinal virtues, and counting for nothing.” I can do little more than offer my humble testimony to the truthfulness of Miss Halcombe’s sketch of the old lady’s character. Mrs. Vesey looked the personification of human composure and female amiability. A calm enjoyment of a calm existence beamed in drowsy smiles on her plump, placid face. Some of us rush through life, and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey SAT through life. Sat in the house, early and late; sat in the garden; sat in unexpected window-seats in passages; sat (on a camp-stool) when her friends tried to take her out walking; sat before she looked at anything, before she talked of anything, before she answered Yes, or No, to the commonest question–always with the same serene smile on her lips, the same vacantly-attentive turn of the head, the same snugly-comfortable position of her hands and arms, under every possible change of domestic circumstances. A mild, a compliant, and unutterably tranquil and harmless old lady, who never by any chance suggested the idea that she had been actually alive since the hour of her birth. Nature has so much to do in this world, and is engaged in generating such a vast variety of co-existent productions, that she must surely be now and then too flurried and confused to distinguish between the different processes that she is carrying on at the same time. Starting from this point of view, it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the good lady suffered the consequences of a vegetable preoccupation in the mind of the Mother of us all.

I have chosen this passage to represent The Woman in White, because, while it doesn’t give away any of the devious plot, it does capture the witty narrative voice of the author. Wilkie Collins enjoys dividing the narration of novels among several major and minor players in his tales, providing a delightful way to both build characterization and allow for conflicting narrative perspectives on the same tale. The passage above is drawn from the opening section of the novel when Walter Hartright is getting to know the various individuals in the Fairlie household, where he has been hired to be drawing-master to two young women. Reading Collins is like reading a mix of Conan Doyle, Austen, and Dickens. There is a mystery, a society marriage plot, and a witty commentary on it all. This is my second novel by Collins and I have enjoyed both. This one took a little while to draw me in, but soon I was eager to learn the great Secret at the heart of the tale and was anxiously concerned for the safety of the protagonists as they tried to evade the dire plots hatched against them.

View all my reviews

Scoreboard update:

Around the World (goal: 52 total including at least 6 in each of 6 different regions) 11
Asia/Mideast: 3 (Israel, China, Afghanistan)
Africa: 1 (Madagascar)
Europe: 3 (England/UK, Monaco, Poland)
Caribbean/Central America/North America: 2 (US, Cuba)
Oceania: 1 (Fiji)
South America:
Extra: 1 (Scotland)

Around the US (goal: 50 states, DC, and PR): 4 (CA, MS, NY, RI)

1001 Books (goal 52): 7

A to Z challenge (must be completed in order–26 author last names A to Z then 26 titles A to Z–strategy is all!): 8
Authors: Auster, Beinart, Chandler, Donovan, Eugenides, Faulkner, Grau, Hosseini


About Beth Parks Aronson

I am Associate Professor of Psychology at Lamar University. Previously, I was a psychologist in private practice in Jenkintown, PA where I specialized in anxiety disorders and working with people living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses. I am a little addicted to good literature. Ok, a lot addicted.
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One Response to A Side Trip to England

  1. vanbraman says:

    I really like Wilkie. I have read this one, Moonstone and The Dead Secret. I need to read more. Armadale may be next.

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