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October Read: The Woman in White - The Second Epoch (1st-4th)

The 11 in 11 Category Challenge

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Edited: Oct 5, 2011, 6:54am Top

For discussion on the Second Epoch - 1st to 4th.

1st part: The story continued by Marian Halcombe pg 173
2nd: The story continued by Frederick Fairlie p304
3rd: Eliza Michelson p321
4th: several narratives p360
(page numbers in the lime green Penguin Classics edition)

Oct 5, 2011, 10:07pm Top

Well the story has really picked up now. The book was originally published in serial form, and I can now see the suspense is being layered on, page by page. Character wise, I have become quite an admirer or Marian's, and Count Fosco reigns supreme as the crafty arrogant villian. He definitely appears to be the puppet master. I haven't quite figured out his wife - is she a willing accomplice? Sir Percival comes across as a nasty brute, but obviously doesn't have the brains to be in charge overall. This is a great Victorian melodrama!

Edited: Oct 7, 2011, 8:02pm Top

Just finished the Second epoch. I agree, it's a page turner. It would work really well in serial form - early version of a soap opera! I'm not seeing much to talk about anymore, meaning that I don't see the characters as being very deep or the book having important themes and such. It seems like the plot and suspense are driving the book now. That's fine with me, I'm really enjoying it!

One thing I keep reminding myself is that though a lot of this seems formulaic now, I'm pretty sure this is one of the first mysteries written like this. Of course, it does reference gothic novels, but I think, correct me if I'm wrong, this is the prototype for this kind of novel. That would have made it even more exciting to read when it was originally published.

Oct 8, 2011, 3:23pm Top

>3 japaul22: - According to Wikipedia, The Woman In White is considered one of the first mystery novels ever published. Which I think is important to bear in mind, as variations of this plot have appeared many times over the years.

You are right it is very plot driven, and as it was originally published in serial form the suspense keeps building!

Edited: Oct 8, 2011, 9:08pm Top

I just finished the 2nd epoch and think there should be a warning attached like the ones for roller coasters, people with heart problems not advised to enter. I had palpitations all through the second epoch. I went from thinking Laura was stupid, or rather ignorant, to just hoping she and Marian could survive. I agree, DeltaQueen that Count Fosco is a wonderful character, very modern I think with all his various attributes and abilities. Sir Percival, well, many people could write him, but Fosco is unique. Marian, for all her hatred of her sex, is quite the woman, kudos to Fosco for realizing it. I kept hoping his wife, Laura's aunt, would come to her senses, but she remains under Fosco's spell. I like the fact that the doctor mentioned mesmerism, it does apply to Fosco's abilities. Uncle Fairlie is rather unique himself. He's so despicable. I like what Waters did with him in Fingersmith, it didn't actually make him much worse than Collins wrote him.
Collins wrote this before Freud established his theory of the unconscious, but I know people were writing about the unconscious before him. I guess, rather than learning about psychology, he was just an astute observer of humanity. I find this book very impressive, and now on to the mystery solution.
Oh, one more thing. Since this novel, like the long novels of the day was serialized I guess Collins thought people had to get their money's worth by having the episodes extended. I could have done with a good deal less of "there's a secret, it's a very important secret, you won't believe how important this secret is, I have to tell you about this secret, I'm going to tell you about this secret..."

Oct 9, 2011, 12:37pm Top

I guess Collins thought people had to get their money's worth by having the episodes extended.

Wasn't it also true that authors got paid by the word then? Collins may have been trying to extend some places as well!

Oct 9, 2011, 3:40pm Top

Like padding your expense account? I could have done with a tad less padding.

Oct 15, 2011, 2:09pm Top

It was rather drawn out, but I am really loving the melodrama and the characters. The episode written by Mr. Fairlie had me in stitches, really, I could see him languishing on a sofa, a cologne-soaked hankie wafting over his head, brilliant! As for Fosco, I agree that he is a very well-drawn, different character, unique is the right word. Alas Marian, I was disappointed that she had to fall into illness, just as she was getting so bold, but good plot device. It was all so touch and go, page-turning, but, as Citizenjoyce says, a health warning is needed!

It does seem formulaic at times, reminding me of Fantomas, which I read recently. As a modern reader, the book was like a pot boiler, until you remembered that it was one of the first of its kind, with multi-layered villains.

Oct 15, 2011, 11:52pm Top

Mr. Fairlie had me laughing my *** off too. & I was relieved that Marian didn't just get sick. There's the suggestion that Fosco was poisoning her. It was just too predictable that she'd get sick from being rained on, especially since she had been boasting about never getting sick.

As for the Secret with a Capital S, I was glad that Anne Catherick didn't show up dead right away. After all any time anyone delays telling a Secret in a modern drama, they have roughly ten minutes left to live. Delaying telling what you know is more dangerous than bungee jumping with a frayed rope.

& I loved the housekeepers priggish little telling, especially her insistence that Fosco was not to be blamed!

Oct 15, 2011, 11:52pm Top

P.S. Where's our ghost?

Oct 16, 2011, 2:30am Top

Fosco definitely worked his charms on the housekeeper. If anything happened to his wife, that housekeeper would have made a fine substitute. Oh wait, maybe not. She's so convinced he's a fine person, how would she have handled his evil machinations?

Oct 16, 2011, 2:48pm Top

Ah, he could've found a way to spin spying as "watching out for the ladies." Any bad that happened would've been "unfortunate" and Percival's fault.

Oct 16, 2011, 4:11pm Top

That's true. Fosco, the ultimate spin master.

Oct 27, 2011, 10:55am Top

Well, Collins is a master of suspense, that's for sure. I couldn't stop reading, and reading, and reading. It's more effective than the instant gratification of today's mysteries. Here, I was biting my nails, hoping for Marian to succeed, for pages and pages. With a modern novel, I'd just have to finish the chapter.

I will confess that I did flip forward a few hundred pages, just to make sure that Marian survived. I couldn't bear it if she had been a victim of that foul foreign Count! And isn't the casual xenophobia interesting? All of that "oh, he was perfect in every way, except for being foreign and all."

Collins was also fantastic at creating characters. Frederick Fairlie's account was hilarious and came hard on the heels of a section of intense tension. Brilliant.

My favorite comment: The moment I heard Miss Halcombe's name I gave up. It is a habit of mine to always give up to Miss Halcombe. I find, by experience, that it saves noise. I gave up on this occasion. Dear Marian!

Marian is a heroine for the ages. Laura's just a symbol, and could be as easily portrayed by a child or a lapdog. Collins got to have his cake and eat it too, in creating the paragon of Victorian femininity and then pairing her with the perfect partner for Walter, the worthy opponent of Fosco.

Someone had had a thread earlier, asking for everyone's favorite characters in fiction. I'm amending mine to include Marian.

Oct 27, 2011, 9:28pm Top

Marian is great. As for Fosco and xenophobia, I was expecting Fosco to meet up with Walter's Italian friend and be unmasked as an Englishman pretending to be a foreigner.

Oct 28, 2011, 3:03am Top

"unmasked as an Englishman pretending to be a foreigner."
That crossed my mind as well, probably because Fosco seemed too Italian, a wee bit overdrawn, perhaps. (Didn't stop me thinking he was a great character!)

Oct 28, 2011, 7:14am Top

What? Pesco's not overdrawn? With his "right, oh-right"s and intense determination to misuse as many English expressions as possible, he's more of a caricature than Fosco.

Oct 28, 2011, 10:09am Top

I wouldn't have thought myself a fan of the overdrawn character, but I loved both Fosco and Pesca.

Oct 28, 2011, 7:16pm Top

I loved Pesca, and hated (but in a good way) Fosco. What made me think Fosco was a fake was how they went on talking about how perfect his English usage was, combined with the fact that he didn't try to assimilate as Pesca did (and did badly.)

Oct 28, 2011, 11:06pm Top

His English was so good because he was devious. An honest foreigner has an accent.

Oct 30, 2011, 6:46pm Top

LOL! Of course. Never trust those people who blend right in.

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