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Tony Grist

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Armadale: Wilkie Collins [Dec. 14th, 2010|05:38 pm]
Tony Grist
I thought this was going to be a very silly book, but in the end it wasn't. It has melodrama, social comedy, a collection of striking and memorable characters and the most sympathetic murderess in Victorian fiction. Contemporaries found it immoral. You bet it is. Collins was a proto-feminist and hated middle-class morality.  His relish for criminal psychology is such that I kept wondering whether Dostoevsky had read him. 
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[User Picture]From: steepholm
2010-12-14 05:46 pm (UTC)
An interesting book as I remember (at 27 years' distance now). Not as enjoyable as The Moonstone or The Woman in White, but a lot of fun. I do remember being a bit squicked out though when said murderess dies and in her final moments something "soft and womanly" comes swimming into her expression, like a renunciation of everything that had made her remarkable up to that point in favour of a conventional Dickensian femininity. But I may be misremembering. It's been a while, as I said.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-14 06:16 pm (UTC)
Lydia Gwilt is a tremendous creation. I could take the ending. It's well prepared for: We know that she loves Midwinter and that she's sick of herself. Her last words to him- before she enters the poison chamber- "It is no merit to have loved you... you are one of the men whom women all like." is worthy of her intelligence.

I love Dickens, but he was incapable of creating a female character (or indeed a male character) as ambiguous and fascinating as this. I'm glad Collins allowed her to die with dignity.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-12-14 05:54 pm (UTC)
Contemporaries found it immoral. You bet it is. Collins was a proto-feminist and hated middle-class morality.

Have never read any Wilkie Collins; am putting this on the list.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-14 06:17 pm (UTC)
It may not be his best book. The Woman in White- which I'm fixing to re-read could be a better place to start.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-12-14 06:19 pm (UTC)
The Woman in White- which I'm fixing to re-read could be a better place to start.

Well, The Moonstone is the one that appears to be on the shelf, so that may be what I begin with.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-14 06:49 pm (UTC)
An excellent choice- the book that is sometimes described as the very first detective novel.
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