I first read The Woman in White in 2006 – it was the first Wilkie Collins book I ever read and the one that turned me into a huge fan of his work. I jI first read The Woman in White in 2006 – it was the first Wilkie Collins book I ever read and the one that turned me into a huge fan of his work. I just wish I had discovered him sooner!
I won't go into the plot in too much detail, as I don't want to spoil the fun for those of you who haven't read it yet. The story begins with drawing master Walter Hartright's meeting on a lonely London road with a mysterious woman dressed all in white who has escaped from an Asylum. The next day Walter takes up a teaching position at Limmeridge House in Cumberland where he finds that one of his students, Laura Fairlie, bears a striking resemblance to the woman in white...
The novel follows an epistolary style, meaning it is narrated by several different characters in turn. I love the way Collins gives each of his narrators a unique 'voice' - he really makes the characters come alive. Another thing I love about Wilkie Collins' writing is his sense of humour...some of the scenes involving Laura's hypochondriac uncle Mr Fairlie are hilarious!
Marian Halcombe, Laura Fairlie's sister, is one of my favourite female characters in literature. Contrary to the usual portrayal of 19th century women, she is a brave, intelligent, courageous person who on several occasions puts herself in danger in order to protect her sister Laura. Another great character is Count Fosco. One of the most unusual and memorable villains I've ever encountered in any book, he's an old, fat, opera-loving Italian completely devoted to his pet canaries and white mice. I remember being surprised when I first read the description of Fosco, as he wasn't what I had been expecting at all!
The Woman in White is an example of the genre known as sensation fiction - including elements such as forgery, identity theft and insanity. Although it was written in the 19th century it's as exciting and gripping as a modern day thriller - even when reading the book for the second time and knowing what was going to happen! It's a long book but there's enough tension and suspense to keep the reader interested right through to the end. There are some classics that are a struggle to read but you persevere with them simply because they're classics and you feel as if you should. The Woman in White does not fall into that category - yes, it's a classic but it's also one of the most readable and enjoyable books I've ever read....more
I first read Watership Down when I was about 10 years old. It immediately became my favourite book and I've re-read it many times over the years.
I knoI first read Watership Down when I was about 10 years old. It immediately became my favourite book and I've re-read it many times over the years.
I know some people may consider a book about talking rabbits to be silly and childish, but Watership Down is not really a 'children's book'. It's one of those books that can be enjoyed on different levels by people of all ages. In fact, the writing style and vocabulary used in this book is of a higher standard than many 'adult' books. It's also not just 'a book about rabbits' - it's a book about friendship, leadership, freedom, adventure, happiness, sadness and so much more.
Hazel and his brother Fiver are two young rabbits living in the peaceful Sandleford Warren. When Fiver has a premonition that the warren is going to be destroyed, he convinces Hazel and several of their friends to embark on an epic journey to find a new home. During their search for Fiver's 'safe, high place', they encounter a number of problems and dangers including humans, predators and even other rabbits. The biggest obstacle of all, however, comes with the realization that as the group consists solely of male rabbits, they urgently need to find some females - this leads to a daring attempt to rescue some does from the overcrowded enemy warren of Efrafa...
Hazel and his friends are not cute little bunnies. They are intelligent, resourceful animals capable of solving almost any problem that is thrown at them. When faced with having to cross a river, for example, they observe that a plank of wood is floating on the surface of the water and they figure out how to use it as a raft. The rabbits are given such human thoughts and emotions that you can easily forget they're actually not human! However, from a physical and behavioural point of view, they always behave like real wild rabbits. Richard Adams used R. M. Lockley's The Private Life of the Rabbit as his reference.
Each rabbit has their own individual personality - Hazel is the leader, Fiver the sensitive prophet, Bigwig the fighter, Blackberry the brains, Dandelion the storyteller, Bluebell the clown, and so on. This allows every reader to identify with at least one rabbit and to choose a favourite (mine was always Bigwig, who at the beginning of the book was overbearing and aggressive but learned some important lessons during the journey to Watership Down and ended as one of the most highly respected rabbits in the warren).
One of the things I love about this book is the way Richard Adams has created an entire rabbit world. This includes: (i) A rabbit language, known as Lapine. Even before I began my re-read of the book, I could still remember that hrududu is the Lapine word for car, that a lendri is a badger, and Elil means enemies. (ii) A rabbit religion. Rabbits are taught that Frith created the world and is represented by the sun. Inle is the word for moon, and the Black Rabbit of Inle is a grim reaper-type character who appears when a rabbit is about to die. The rabbits often talk about "ni-Frith" - noon - and "fu Inle" - after moonrise. (iii) Rabbit folklore. The rabbits love to listen to stories about their hero, the legendary El-ahrairah, 'the Prince with a Thousand Enemies'.
I think the author's wonderfully detailed descriptions of the English countryside also deserve a special mention. As almost all of the places he writes about - the farms, hills, valleys and meadows - are places that really exist, it would be possible to follow the rabbits' journey on a map or even to visit them yourself.
So, do I still enjoy this book as much as I did when I was 10? Yes, of course I do! No matter how many other books I read, Watership Down will always hold a special place in my heart....more