Batsap's Reviews > Man and Wife

Man and Wife by Wilkie Collins
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Feb 05, 10

bookshelves: classics, library
Read in October, 2009

They don't write 'em like this anymore.

What the endorsers of 'the good old days' tend to forget, and the view explored through the character of Sir Patrick, is that the past has always looked better than the present. So as a modern reader of fiction from the 1800's, it was interesting to see that although this period of time might seem idealized to us now, it wasn't so for the people living then. Of course, this seemed common sense once I started thinking about it, but I just needed it pointed out to me.

One of the things I love most about reading books from earlier periods is that it always provides an interesting insight to popular attitudes, beliefs and insights at the time. For example, I thought the concern held by Sir Patrick (and evidently Wilkie Collins himself) about the degeneration of England being brought about by a 'fetish' amongst the young generation for physical exercise was fascinating. The arguments were absorbing to follow and wonderfully supported in the villainous character of Geoffery Delamayn. Although to the modern reader the view might seem a little strange, I found it best just to accept and absorb the arguments.

The other issue that Collins deals with in this book is the subject of 'irregular marriage' laws in Scotland, branching out later into a critique of the institution itself. The wry wit with which these scathing critiques were written was truly a pleasure to read. I think perhaps that this book had some of the most biting, enjoyable humour out of the other Wilkie Collins books that I have read.

The only problem I did have with it was that I found the perpetual visits between houses a little tedious after a while, but not so much that it distracted from the story.
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