Tag Archives: WilkieWinter

#WilkieWinter ~ The Woman in White, Epoch 3

Hosted by The Estella Society

Third Epoch, done!

As I mentioned before, I originally intended to read The Woman in White last year for John Wiswell’s #NaNoReMo. (Btw, #NaNoReMo is slated for March this year. Interested? Hop on over to John’s blog.) Here I am, a year later and I finally finished the dagnabit thing. Why did it take so long? Did I not like this books? Well, an analogy occurred to me on Tuesday morning. While I am short and not very athletic, I enjoy playing ultimate frisbee. Often, I play with people I’ve known for many years. They know that I’m slow and can’t jump, but familiarity has bred the ability to play well together. On Monday night, I played for the first time with a new league team, a group with a faster style and a lot of guys that aren’t yet adept at throwing to a hobbit. Every flaw in my game was magnified. With The Woman in White, my every reading flaw is magnified. I’m a slow reader. I tend to start books, wonder off to read something shinier, but eventually come back. This novel? Not conducive to those things. But! I finished it, and probably wouldn’t have without this read-along.

Thoughts: (Spoilers Ahead)

I had hoped at the end of Epoch Two that Laura’s escape from Anne’s fate had been engineered by her and Marian’s cunning. In fact, I had high hopes for Laura gaining some actual autonomy. Silly, misguided me. In fact, Laura becomes more insufferable as does everyone’s treatment of her.

I was also pretty put off by Walter’s “she was mine at last!” After all that Laura and Marian have gone through for freedom, Walter’s presumption of ownership was really off-putting. This epoch is the most manly of them, filled with ego, spies, assassins, and duels. I know that culturally much of the investigation is better handled by a man, it was still a disappointment after a whole epoch of Marian being fairly awesome.

For a while I wondered why they didn’t all just move to France and establish new identities. I had totally forgotten about Walter’s mother and sister.

Apparently, the security in this particular Asylum is total crap. How many times do Anne and Laura escape?

Fairlie genes are whacked. Philip seems to have been the handsome one and maybe okay, but then we have his brother, Frederick, and his daughters, Anne and Laura. None of these three seem to be able to interact with reality to any degree.

I am very sad that Niall MacGinnis never played Count Fosco.


1. How do you feel about the way this novel wrapped up? Too clean and tidy? Just right? How about Fosco’s tell-all confession?

There was an overage of explanation, in my opinion. It was maybe a tad padded out; not surprising since it was originally published in serial form. Was rather surprised by the secret society, a device handily used to do dirty work.

2. Did you feel the characters got what they deserved in the end? Namely, Sir Percival. But also Marian? Fosco?

Maybe it’s the old soap-opera watcher in me, but I’m still not convinced that Sir Percival is dead. It seems to be such a bland ending for him. I suppose it could be argued that a bland end is all he really deserved. Fosco? Total poetic justice there. You can only betray so many people before it catches up with you. Alas, this isn’t Marian’s story and her fate is to be the sly aunt. (In my AU, Percival isn’t dead and Marian is recruited by the secret Brotherhood to track him down…) And Walter and Laura live happily ever after. Walter definitely gets what he deserves. *cough*

3. What do you think of Wilkie’s treatment of the ladies? Heather, Amanda, and I all sort of wondered if he was screwing with us at times. The sticks to convention but it also seemed a little tongue-in-cheek at times. Or maybe those are just our contemporary female sensibilities…and wishing.

The third epoch had such a different tone than the first two. In Epoch One, Walter was a bit wishy-washy, Laura wasn’t quite an utter lump, and the brightest character was Marian. In Epoch Two, Marian is the star, Walter’s off being *so heroic* in South America, and I’ll cut Laura some slack because she’s in a crappy situation. Epoch Three seems to disregard all characters aside from Walter and Fosco. The novel, which has been pretty permissive to its female characters, becomes a boys’ club. We don’t even see much of Madame Fosco. I had high hopes for her villainy too.  Were the first two-thirds of the book just a wind-up? Since this was originally published in serial form, had there been some feedback from readers and/or publishers to conclude on a more masculine note? Or maybe I’m just wishing for a story that isn’t being told here…

#WilkieWinter ~ The Woman in White, Epoch 2

Hosted by The Estella Society

This book is a nightmare for a slow reader… Just sayin’.

There may be spoilers below.

1. Was the second epoch more successful for you than the first? I ain’t gonna lie, Wilkie drags for me sometimes. I really can’t say that he’s overly wordy, or that there are details that are unnecessary, but it was hard powering through some of the more domestic sections of the text. There’s a lot of “something dramatic is about to happen…but tomorrow, after I send this letter.”

2. What do you think of ole Fosco? There were DEVELOPMENTS in this section that gave oodles more insight into his character, and things aren’t pretty. I’ve been suspicious of Fosco from the start and am immune to his charms. At first, it was mostly because of the way the Countess acted, as though utterly cowed by him. How can you like a guy who has seemingly broken a reputed spirited woman? But obviously the Countess isn’t what she seems either and I wonder just how much she’s behind his scheming. A couple of asps, those two.

3. What do you think of the relationship between Sir Percival and Fosco? Percival is the weak link in all this. It feels like Fosco has some hold over him that’s beyond debt, and apparently beyond Sir P’s Secret too. Fosco keeps Percival on a short leash because otherwise Percival would get drunk and blurt out every super-secret plan ever.

4. We touched on the literary ladies in the first Epoch. How do you feel about the developments in Marian’s and Laura’s character? Marian, action hero! But of course, after such daring-do, she has to come down with a debilitating fever. Marian, though female, is pretty much the least sentimental main character. I have the feeling during Epoch Two that Walter could have never pulled off half the things Marian did because he would have been too overcome by feelings. Up until the last few paragraphs of Epoch Two, I was not surprised at Laura’s general hand-ringing. Pretty much the only time she was strong was when some other female character was there to back her up. But! Assuming that it is truly Laura at the graveside (and not Anne), she’s obviously had to carry out some manner of plan. I haven’t read on, so I’m taking Wilkie at his word.

5. Go nuts! It’s a free-for-all! Tell us what’s on your mind.

Such drama! Skulking heroics by Marian! Deceptions! Poisonings! Death and reversals!

Interesting how Marian’s arrival at Blackwater mimics Walter’s at Limmeridge. No one is home and she gets the chance to poke around.

Funny that Percival thought that Hartright might be behind some sort of scheme to dissuade Laura from his affections. No, Percival, you’re doing a fine job of alienating your wife all on your own.

I was a little annoyed by the convenient summary of information on a couple of occasions. Fosco, for example, wanting to restate what Sir Precival’s financial problems were. It’s a clumsy technique. I’m not saying I’ve never used it, but with the lengths that Wilkie goes through sometimes to convey narrative, it’s surprising.

Debt and money are big issues in this story, and much of Dickens’ work as well. Considering what a huge factor debt is for many people today, do we have any this kind of fiction being written currently?

#WilkieWinter ~ The Woman in White, Epoch I

Hosted by The Estella Society

I first started reading The Woman in White last year for John Wiswell‘s National Novel Reading Month. I managed about half. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the book, but it’s a bit of a slog and I seem to experience a slight reading slump in Jan/Feb. It feels like it happened last year as well. But! I soldier on. The following contains SPOILERS.

Considering my previous experience with the text, I decided to take some notes this time.

  • Walter Hartright – first author, teacher of drawing
    • Mother
    • Sarah, his sister. Doesn’t like Pesca
    • Professor Pesca – Italian, very short, language teacher, owes “life debt” to Hartright
  • Frederick Fairlie of Limmeridge House
    • Marian Halcombe, the dark one, half sister to Miss Fairlie. Talks like a 20s dame.
    • Miss Laura Fairlie, daughter of Mr. Fairlie, half sister to Miss Halcombe, niece to Frederick Fairlie (younger brother to Miss Fairlie’s father)
    • Mrs. Vesey, old governess
    • The mother of the Misses set up a school in Limmeridge
  • Mrs. Catherick, from Hampshire
  • Woman in White (Anne Catherick)
    • fears a Baronet
    • once happy in Cumberland, Limmeridge House and Village.
    • claims Mrs. Fairlie is dead, and her husband is dead, their little girl is married and gone (she isn’t). (presumably, this is Misses Halcombe and Fairlie’s mother and Miss Fairlie’s father)
    • two men looking for her, had given her lavender clothes, says she escaped from an Asylum.
  • Sir Percival Glyde
  • Vincent Gilmore, family solicitor
  • Magdalen, Arthur Fredrick’s daughter, cousin to Laura, far inheritor if Laura died single or childless.
  • Aunt Eleanor (Philip Fairlie’s sister)
  • Count Fosco

Life-interest – On Mr. Frederick’s death, interest (3000 pounds/year) to Laura/Laura’s husband, inheritance of Limmeridge to his son.
On Laura’s coming of age: 20K plus 10K life-interest (to go to Aunt Eleanor on Laura’s death, to Magdalen if Eleanor dies first); after marriage, to her husband (interest), to children (principal), to Miss Holcombe, etc. (principal) — What Glyde wants: all of it.

To be honest, I’m still not clear on the money issue, aside from knowing that Glyde is doing something unreasonable and underhanded and, by the end of Epoch 1, Miss Fairlie and Miss Halcombe know nothing of it.

General impressions:

From the very beginning, it’s stated that this story involves a great injustice, possibly something litigious. There is also an ever-present cloud of foreboding. In what doesn’t seem to be retrospective, Mr. Hartright is reluctant to take the job at Limmeridge, even though his family is very keen about it. It is, I suppose, to be seen as the inciting event.

The repetition of Miss Fairlie walking outside while Miss Halcombe reads of Anne Catherick is spooky. There’s also an interesting juxtaposition between the anonymous letter and Miss Halcombe telling Mr. Hartright of Laura’s impending nuptials. As a reader, we are never given any choice but to think poorly of Sir Glyde. The Frozen Deep had a strong theme of predestination and its reversal. It’s not being harped on yet in The Woman in White, but many of the characters feel they have no choice in matters, at least if they don’t want to part from the ways of polite society. All of Laura Fairlie’s goodness works against her. And what did Glyde whisper in her ear?

Laura’s custodians utterly fail her, but again, their choices seem to be made by circumstances. All Laura wants (since she cannot have Mr. Hartright) is to not be parted from Marian Halcombe. She has no concern about her fortune, which is all everyone else seems to be interested in (aside from Miss Halcombe and Mr. Hartright, for whom it is only an impediment). Mr. Gilmore, a lawyer, only has reservations when it is the law that Glyde is manipulating.


1. Class. Class plays such a huge part in this novel. Laura is obviously a higher class than Walter, but also higher than her sister Marian. How does this affect her relationships with the two characters? How does class enable Mr. Fairlie to be the, uh…grouch, that he is?

Unfortunately, class is the big impediment for Laura and Walter, and the aspect of novels of this time period that make me face-palm the most.  Marian’s lower class seems to mean that she gets placed wherever someone else see fit. Not that she seems to mind, but she doesn’t really have any position in life other than as her half-sister’s companion. And then there is Mr. Fairlie. He uses his class to do whatever he pleases, which is mostly sitting in his darkened room with his collections and letting the rest of the world rot. If this had been a Shirley Jackson novel, Mr. Fairlie would quietly be poisoned (probably by his long-suffering servant, not the Misses) and everyone would be better off for it.

2. Sex. Marian is described as being manly. How does this affect her life? Laura is more womanly. How does this affect her?

Marian is given more leeway in how she can act. She’s often the go-between, the voice, and the researcher. In many ways, Marian is a more active character than Walter Hartright. Unfortunately, since she is still a woman, this doesn’t giver her much more freedom in decision-making. Laura is pretty much a pawn. Her efforts at being a good, true woman work against her. She tries to honor the promise her father made by appealing to Glyde’s generosity and finds that he has none. Her own virtue works against her since it gives Glyde no reason to end their engagement.

3. Sir Percival Glyde. What are your first impressions of Laura’s husband?

We’re never given any opportunity to think well of him. Even when the characters are given reasons to find him…reasonable, readers have been given every indication that he’s scheming to get Laura’s money. And what horrible thing did he whisper in Laura’s ear?!

4. Anne Catherick. What do you think of her? What is her part in this elaborate story?

I think Anne is a little simple and maybe a tad delusional. It sounds like she’s always been that way, but she’s probably been driven in that direction further, probably by Glyde. I won’t be surprised to find that she’s been stripped of a fortune by him too.

5. What do you think it would have been like reading this novel back when it was published? Do you think you would you feel different about the characters of Laura and Marian back then as opposed to how you feel about them now?

Reading this in 2014 America, the issues of class are more difficult to fathom. The consequences of Laura admitting that she can’t marry Glyde because of Walter are never even touched on, presumably because readers of 1860 would know that would play out. I imagine such a novel written now would include a digression on how fallen of a woman Laura might become if she goes against her family’s wishes. I am rather surprised at the character of Marian. She seems pretty outspoken for a female character of that era, even if she is the homely one.

Wilkie in Winter ~ The Frozen Deep

The Frozen Deep (Hesperus Classics)

The first part of The Estella Society’s Wilkie in Winter event is a look at The Frozen Deep by Wilkie Collins and kind of, sort of Charles Dickens.

Based on the doomed 1845 expedition to the Arctic, The Frozen Deep is a dramatic tale of vengeance and self-sacrifice. Exchanging vows of love with sailor Frank Aldersley the night before his departure, Clara Burnham is haunted by the memory of Richard Wardour, and his mistaken belief that they will one day marry. On different ships, the two men have no cause to meet—until disaster strikes and they find themselves united by their battle for survival. When they learn of their rivalry, there follows an act of pure selflessness, making The Frozen Deep one of Collins’ most moving and tragic works.

Initial Impressions
(before checking out the questions at Estalla Society)

The first half of this novella definitely hits some of my sweet spots. Clara’s trances reminded me of Harwood’s The Seance and that novel’s use of second sight. I was also amused by Clara’s troubles being attributed to “secret anxieties.”

Scenes Two and Three bring to mind the framing device of Frankenstein and the first portion of the 1941 movie 49th Parallel, in which escapees from a sunken Nazi U-boat hideout in a Canadian trapping lodge. The Hut of the Sea-Mew chapters are tense, claustrophobic, and filled with doom. Not only are the majority of these characters lost, but Wardour’s prescience breeds true.

“I knew it then; I know it now–it was written on my heart then, it is written on my heart now–we two shall meet and know each other.”

There is an interesting war between superstition and religion near the end of the book. Mrs. Crayford continually admonished Clara for her “miserable superstitious faith” and urges her to trust in God. We begin to wonder if anyone can escape their destiny. In the end, it’s in Wardour’s hands.

Best quote:

“When you are married, you will know that the easiest of all secrets to keep is a secret from your husband.”

1. How do you feel about the narrative structure? The obvious rewrite of stage direction? The structure didn’t bug me although I wonder if the “Between the Scenes” scene might have been left out or maybe used as a front-of-stage scene while a ballroom and Sea-Mew hut set were changed. (Note: I know very little about stagecraft; this is pure speculation.)

2. How do you think this play looked performed? Do you think it would make more sense in that medium that in this small novella? I thought it worked pretty well as a novella, although I have been watching quite a few movies from the 30s and 40s. I kept seeing The Frozen Deep in that sort of stationary camera work and melodramatic dialogue.

3. What did you think of the “love triangle?” Did it feel forced? Which man would you have picked? I was somewhat annoyed at Clara for not being completely clear to Wardour about her intentions from the beginning. (Obviously, keeping quiet on the matter worked so much better.) I’m never a fan of drama caused by non-communication. I would have picked Aldersley, but hit him upside the head for wanting to go on an Arctic expedition. I suppose that shows my modern sensibilities.

 4. Impressions of Clara and her characterization? Oh, Clara. Perhaps I can understand Clara a little bit having been in a similar situation. She doesn’t want to marry Wardour, but only gets around to telling him so in a letter and, when she doesn’t hear from him, hopes he never returns. When he dose return, that’s when I feel Clara should be more resolute and come clean about her fondness for Aldersley.

 5. Supposedly Dickens had a hand in helping write this script. Can you feel his hand in the writing? How much was Dickens and how much was Collins? I haven’t read enough Dickens or Wilkie yet to suss out one from the other.

More Winkie In Winter discussion can be found on the link-up page!

Reading Events – November & December

Starting in November

christmas 2013-4Hosted by the fabulous Michelle at her Christmas Spirit Blog

These must be Christmas novels, books about Christmas lore, a book of Christmas short stories or poems, books about Christmas crafts, and for the first time…a children’s Christmas books level! Levels:

  • Candy Cane:  read 1 book
  • Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books
  • Christmas Tree:  read 5 or 6 books (this is the fanatic level…LOL!)
  • Fa La La La Films:  watch a bunch or a few Christmas movies…it’s up to you!
  • Visions of Sugar Plums:  read books with your children this season and share what you read

I’m going to shoot for the Mistletoe level because, well, I have good intentions but I’m also fickle. I’ve love the juxtaposition of Christmas and ghost stories, so there will probably be a lot of that. I’m also always interested in exploring other holiday season holidays. I am, I suppose, holiday greedy. I like that so many cultural and religious holidays are clustered during the darkest time of the year. I see no reason why everyone can’t celebrate everything if they so desire. Some of what I might read:

Charles Dickens' Christmas Ghost Stories Spirits of Christmas Haunting Christmas Tales Let it Snow!  Season's Readings for a Super-Cool Yule!

The Twelve Days of Yule Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins Kwanzaa: A Family Affair The New Year's Eve Compendium: Toasts, Tips, Trivia and Tidbits for Bringing in the New Year

Starting in December

wilkieinwinter-1024x1024I will finish A Woman in White, I swear it.