Wilkie in Winter Readalong: The Woman in White Epoch 1

January 30, 2014 Classics 6

Hey Bookworms,

As you know I joined up with The Estella Society for their readalong of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I’ve got some random thoughts before I tackle the discussion questions…

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The first few chapters nearly did me in. I enjoy a short exuberant Italian man as much as the next girl, but I may have fallen asleep during his long descriptive phase. Things picked up a bit when the mysterious woman in white appeared to walk Mr. Hartright to London. Then it got sleepy again until Ms. Halcombe was all “hey Mr. Artist Face, you can’t be hooking up with my sister; she’s engaged and stuff.” After that? Smoooooth sailing.

I LOL’d at Mrs. Vesey being referred to as having been created while God was really concentrating on his cabbages.

Mr. Hartright is kind of a weenie. I’m sorry you couldn’t marry the rich girl, but sheesh.

Mr. Gilmore is the stodgiest! He’s all about being proper and gets all moody-like when the servants seem too familiar and trusts creepsters when there’s CLEARLY reason for suspicion. Well, he’s a BARONET, so obvi it’s okay. No, it isn’t. That dude is shady as hell!


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? Laura is an interesting gal. She loves Walter, but can’t be with him. That’s nothing we haven’t seen before, rich Victorian folks never got down with poor Victorian folks. But her relationship with her sister Marian was weird. I mean, they obviously love each other, but it’s got a sort of servant-y vibe about it. And ugh Mr. Fairlie. If he weren’t so dang rich nobody would put up with his douchebaggery. “Oh my delicate ears!” Oh, bite me, Fairlie.

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 described as manly, which is pretty unfair, but given the time period it sort of makes sense. She’s got opinions and she’s smart and she’s plain. It’s almost as if her homeliness is the ticket to her freedom. Laura, on the other hand, being the fancy flower she is, is expected to be (and totally is) dainty and kind of spineless. Have I mentioned I’m glad it’s no longer the Victorian era?

3. Sir Percival Glyde. What are your first impressions of Laura’s husband? I believe I already used the phrase “shady as hell.” I haven’t read ahead, but I do not trust this guy. He is wicked and douchey and I just know he’s up to no good!

4. Anne Catherick. What do you think of her? What is her part in this elaborate story? Anne Catherick! She is THE WOMAN IN WHITE! I think she probably is kind of crazy, but I also think she’s spot on with Sir Percival’s evilness. He’s done her some sort of horrendous turn, you mark my words!

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? This is a complicated question. I’m quite certain that if I’d been born back in the day, I’d be good and dead. Leaving the facts of my miraculous birth aside (holla at you, antibiotics!) I don’t know what I’d have thought of this book. I can only assume I’d have been influenced by the society in which I was raised, so I’d probably think Laura was the coolest and Marian was rather uppity. I’m glad it’s not then.

Wow. Full of substance today, no? There are about a thousand questions I could pose about class and gender equality, but let’s talk about foreshadowing. It’s obvious to me that Sir Percival is a rat-bastard. Do you dig foreshadowing or do you find it too heavy handed? 

6 Responses to “Wilkie in Winter Readalong: The Woman in White Epoch 1”

  1. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I am quick to find foreshadowing heavy-handed in modern novels, but I can’t get enough of it in Victorian ones. It seems to go well with the general atmosphere of a Victorian novel. HAD I BUT KNOWN and all that — love it.

  2. Megan M.

    I like foreshadowing. It totally ratchets up the suspense (when it’s done right.) If you drag out the payoff too long, though, then it gets annoying.

  3. Katherine

    You know, Sir Percival is made out to be so evil..,before we even meet him!…that I sort of meta-wonder if Wilkie is setting us up for a reversal. Not a “secret heart of gold” thing, but maybe some sort of repentance. (I’ve read ahead of the 1st Epoch, but not to the end.)

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