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Tony Grist

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The Woman In White: Wilkie Collins [Dec. 27th, 2010|10:46 am]
Tony Grist
This may or may not be the first modern thriller. Genres evolve - and there must be things that are earlier than this which qualify as almost the first modern thriller- Bleak House perhaps.  Still the modernity of the Woman in White is startling.  Wilkie has a modern mind- and goes as far out on a limb on sex and religion as any Victorian popular novelist dared. Sex: he hearts it. Religion: he despises it. All the familiar tropes are here- but fresh because they're being done for the first time. Wilkie's people are vivid. Count Fosco is fat and charismatic and looks like Napoleon and is clearly written with Marlon Brando in mind. Marian Halcombe is smart and tough, almost an action hero- and (brilliant touch, this) ugly. Wilkie likes women. Strong women- good and bad- abound in his books. He never quite dips into the supernatural, but weirdness is everywhere- with doppelgangers and odd encounters on lonely moonlit roads and- well- women in white- several of them. It's a grand book.

I've not quite finished it yet. Our hero- who has been gumshoeing around like a good'un has just marched in and confronted Fosco in his lair. Fosco "stops at nothing", but our hero has it in his power to sic the mafia onto him and Fosco knows it...
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: veronikos
2010-12-27 11:20 am (UTC)
I've read this book, too, within the last year.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-27 11:22 am (UTC)
I read Collins as a kid- and I'm rediscovering him. he's good.
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[User Picture]From: humphreycobbler
2010-12-27 11:27 am (UTC)
I JUST got this for my new kindle. I saw a dramatisation back in the 1980s which I really enjoyed, and I'm looking forward to reading it.

I'm loading up on British 19th-early 20th century novels, most of which are free once one has the kindle: Trollope, Dickens, Hardy -- all things I either read long ago and have mostly forgotten or have always meant to read but never gotten around to.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-27 11:56 am (UTC)
I read TWIW as a kid. I'd forgotten most of the plot, but the characters are just as I remembered them.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2010-12-27 03:06 pm (UTC)
I was thrilled by this when I was a schoolgirl. Also, part of the TV production was filmed at a house where I've often camped, which gives a new kind of thrill to rereading it
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-27 05:41 pm (UTC)
I think it's time the BBC gave us more Collins.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2010-12-27 05:31 pm (UTC)
I somehow never got around to Collins until quite recently, even though I've read a lot of novels out of his general period. I've just read The Moonstone for the first time, and The Woman in White is on my list. From what you've said here it's much like The Moonstone --- the book that started a genre, and all the cliches which in our time are so tired and worn are here fresh and new-minted. A very entertaining read, and worth rereading too.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-27 05:45 pm (UTC)
I'm into Collins at the moment. Next up is the less well-known No Name. Apparently it contains "one of the most exhilarating heroines of Victorian fiction".
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-12-27 05:55 pm (UTC)
He never quite dips into the supernatural, but weirdness is everywhere- with doppelgangers and odd encounters on lonely moonlit roads and- well- women in white- several of them. It's a grand book.

I can see I'll have to read multiple Wilkie Collins.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-27 06:03 pm (UTC)
I'm about to start No Name- the book he wrote immediately after The Woman in White.
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