This is the first time I read detective novel with Victorian background. Here I can hear you yelling: ‘What about Holmes?’ Well, Holmes is Holmes. I mean, he is a real detective, and his stories were focused mostly on the crime-solving. While The Woman in White depicted ordinary persons who were forced to perform detective tasks to solve their own problem.
In this post, I will not trying to summarize the story, but only jotting down my random thoughts while reading this awesome book.
What I realized immediately after finishing this story is the difference between Dickens’ and Collins’ style. I naturally compared them because they were close friends—Dickens published Collins’ short stories in the periodicals he founded: Household Words—and I assumed Collins style would be closely similar to Dickens. I was not completely wrong, they had a similarity, but I think I like Collins better.
Collins’ characters—at least in The Woman in White; I have not read his other books—are as strong as Dickens’ but more plausible. I felt like knowing Walter Hartright or Marian Halcombe as real persons in real life, not just characters in some tales. Hartright is a drawing master; if he was in Dickens’ novel, he would probably be portrayed as romantic and melancholic person. But Collins made him an intelligent young man with strong will and courage. Laura Fairlie, though not as strong and brave as Marian, still found, now and then, courage to resist under her tyrannical husband.
Dickens’ characters are also mostly typical. Most of his villains, especially, can be detected almost at once. But with Collins, I found that several of the characters are in grey area. Count Fosco is one example. Everybody tends to like him. Interestingly, it was Laura who first detected something artificial in him. And how he adored Marian, and acted gentlemanly towards his “enemies”. Beyond his lack of moral conscience, nobody would disagree that he is a kind gentleman. Another ambiguous character is Hartright’s Italian friend: Professor Pesca. Who would ever suspect that behind this funny and simple man with extra warm heart, laid a dark secret of being member of a secret organization (by the way, what organization can it be, indeed?)? And how very often do we, too, wrongly judge our friends or close relatives?
To summarize, I did really enjoy The Woman in White. I loved the uniqueness and originality of the characters; loved the neat and smooth plot; loved how Collins built it slowly—neither too surprising nor too predictable. And I also loved the mature love story; and enjoyed the little—just a little—twist of the plot. It is a detective story, but the highest aim is not to punish the villains, or to reveal the truth, or to excite our adventurer side; it is just what one must do for the loved ones—it is the act of love, honor, and humanity. Oh, I just love it!