Book: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Pages read: 84 of 609.
Weekly goal: I adjusted my goal from a weekly goal of 120 pages to a daily goal, after recalibration, of 16 pages/day.
What I have learned so far:
- Wilkie had this book serialized in Charles Dickens literary magazine, All the Year Round, in 1859. It became wildly popular with "The Woman in White" spin-off products like perfume, jewelry, scarves, bonnets, etc. available for purchase. It makes me think that this was the nineteenth century's marketing scheme similar to Disney products of today.
- The book is described as the first detective novel and as one of the finest sensation fiction works ever written. I had to look up what a sensation novel was since I'd never heard of it before. Apparently this genre of novel lived a very short life, only from 1860 to1880.
Sensation fiction drew on a variety of popular forms including melodrama, domestic realism, newspaper reports, Newgate novels, and gothic tales. The gripping plots of these novels involved scandalous events including murder, adultery, bigamy, fraud, madness, and sexual deviance often perpetrated by seemingly moral and upright individuals in familiar domestic settings. The genre’s popularity provoked alarm and hostility on the part of literary, political, and religious authorities who denounced sensation novels for eliciting intense physical responses from their readers. The broad appeal of sensation fiction made it suspect as serious writing for nearly a century.---Matthew Rubery, Oxford Bibliographies
- The book is divided into sections narrated by different characters. Each section thus appears to be a sort of legal deposition with the character telling their side of the story or their involvement in the plot. At the opening of chapter one the first narrator is introduced thusly: THE STORY BEGUN BY WALTER HARTRIGHT (of Clement's Inn, Teacher of Drawing). Each subsequent narrator is introduced in a similar fashion.
Like so many other books that were first serialized in literary magazines, each chapter ends on a bit of cliff-hanger. It really does make me want to read on.
The action (no spoilers):
The reader is introduced to the woman in white very early in the first section. The narrator, Walter Hartright, does a little digging and a bigger mystery emerges. Don't you just love his name Hartright (Heart Right, get it?)
Even though I was the one who put The Woman in White on my list, I found myself feeling resentful that I had to read this book. My complaint was based mainly on the length of the book, 609 pages in this edition, and my reluctance to start it until I had finished the three other books I was reading at the time of the spin. This, I felt, would make it nearly impossible to finish by the deadline of May 15th. However, now that I've started I feel differently. I'm actually pretty excited to read my first sensation novel and I like the writing style.
If you would like to join me for a read-along you don't have to scurry too fast to catch up and then to stay caught up you need just divide the pages in your edition by 33 days (days left for this challenge) for your daily reading goal. I am currently on section 1, chapter XIII. Join me!