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message 1: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments Ok, guys. I think we need to keep doing some group reads. We should start by nominating some books. Since October has started we can do it for November. Tell me if you guys would like to. Here are a few opening suggestions:

Dracula
Jane Eyre
Lolita
The Woman in White


message 2: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) I would love to do The Woman in White-any other takers?


message 3: by Sarah (new)

Sarah I've always wanted to read Jane Eyre and The Woman in White. Either would be great!


message 4: by Dorilis (new)

Dorilis I always wanted to read Dracula, if not I vote for the Woman in White


message 5: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments I would like to do any of those 4 :D


message 6: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments Lolita is good too by the way!


message 7: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments could someone make a poll?


message 8: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) Thanks Zabet-hey everyone, the poll is up, voting ends October 31st. Can I suggest we take 2 months for the book as we won't be able to start reading until the beginning of the month.

Also, would it help to have a reading schedule? I can divide the book up into so many chapters/week and you only discuss the plot up to the chapters for that week-that way we can discuss what we are reading as we go along and there are no spoilers for those of us reading more slowly than others.


message 9: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments I would like the schedule Frances!


message 10: by Sarah (new)

Sarah A schedule sounds like a good plan!


message 11: by Dorilis (new)

Dorilis I think the schedule is a great idea!


message 12: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) Don't forget to vote in the poll for your book choice for November!


message 13: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) We currently have a tie in the poll, so any last minute voters please weigh in, and if you have one of the single vote books you might want to consider changing your vote for one of either The Woman in White or Lolita, the current front runners.


message 14: by Dorilis (new)

Dorilis I voted for Dracula to break the tie I'll like vote for The Woman in White.

I would change my vote on the poll but the poll is now close...


message 15: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) Can we go ahead with The Woman in White for the November read? Unless there are objections, I will set up a reading schedule tomorrow or Friday.


message 16: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments i agree!


message 17: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) So here is the proposed reading schedule: Feel free to discuss anything in the given chapters in the time allotted.
Nov 1-14: Chapters 1-9 inclusive
Nov 15-28: Chapters 10-21 inclusive
Nov 29-Dec 5 (1 week): Chapters 22-26
Dec 6-Dec 20: Part the Second: Chapters 27-37
Dec 20-Dec 30: Part the Third: Chapters 38-40 and overall impressions.

I know the divisions aren't quite even but I decided to go with about 100 pages/week and given how the book divided up it seemed to make sense to have mostly 2 week/200 page divisions with one 100 page set in the middle.

So let us know what you think as we read through but no spoilers please!


message 18: by Frances (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) I have just finished the opening 9 chapters and there is certainly a lot of mystery and tension. Quite early on we meet the Woman in White on a lonely road late at night, a strange woman who seems troubled and emotionally unstable and/or mentally simple. Shortly thereafter the story shifts to a comfortable country home where two pleasant young women live with their invalid uncle. I loved that initial description of poor Marian Halcombe which ends with "The Lady is Ugly!"-I don't often laugh aloud at Victorian novels but that sentence did it for me.

Very soon, however, a chill enters the setting when we learn of the upcoming marriage of Laura Fairlie to a much older man and our Woman in White writes a strange letter warning of dire consequences should the marriage go ahead. As the story unfolds, we start to feel that there is something not quite right about the Baronet, particularly when he insists on her signing over her fortune to him in the case of her death as part of the marriage settlement, and we learn that he is heavily in debt.

A very suspenseful opening!


message 19: by Sary (new)

Sary | 10 comments I love this book!


message 20: by Frances (last edited Nov 23, 2012 02:24PM) (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) We're now at the end of Chapter 21 and it has become downright frightening. This is such a contrast to the usual Victorian novel in which, where gentlemen were concerned, there was always a veneer of propriety and honesty and gentlewomen would not have felt so overtly threatened both physically and in terms of their personal liberty. In fact, the situation of isolation and complete control of the Man of the house in terms of hiring servants, controlling the money etc would suggest that this type of domestic terror was probably more common than we would imagine in those Great Homes in rural Britain (as I believe Conan Doyle remarked in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories). I am curious about whether all those gothic novels one reads about in Jane Austen (especially in Northanger Abbey) would have had a similar tone to this novel.

I have enjoyed the changing narrator and notice that there will be a number of different narrators in the upcoming sections-I look forward to that.

The one factor that lessens my enjoyment somewhat is the whole question of why Laura agreed to marry the Baronet in the first place. She clearly felt an obligation to honour her dead father's wish, and yet given her strong feelings for another man and her pretty overt dislike of Percival Glyde, as well as the questions around his motivation which were made clear in the matter of the marriage settlement, I felt that the whole premise of the novel was a bit shaky. Perhaps that is simply a 21st century projection onto 19th century customs and values.


message 21: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Reading the first 200 pages of my copy of “The Woman in White” has brought me to the Second Epoch (between the two narratives of Marian Halcombe), as it is referred to in this edition. I find the structure of this work to be interesting—an epistolary novel following a traditional Aristotelian plot structure—because most Victorian stories adopt an omniscient narrator. The shifting narrative voice lends a unique tone; I enjoy having the story told by multiple characters because it gives different viewpoints, although at the same time it makes me wonder how much to trust the veracity of each person.

So far I have noted continuity in doubting the goodness of Sir Percival, despite the fact that both Vincent Gilmore and Marian Halcombe seemed to be more kindly disposed toward him in the beginning. It is interesting that a simple letter about a dream can have wrought such a suspicious mindset. Laura Fairlie’s initial reaction is understandable because she had fallen in love with Walter, an incident that could perhaps explain Marian’s reservations toward Sir Percival as well. I just wonder that Sir Percival’s apparently obvious villainry has not been noted before. He has maintained a façade of righteousness among the community, but this is dependent on his knowledge of how to manipulate people such as Laura. He knows how she will react, and he takes advantage of this by making it seem as though she is making the decisions when, in fact, he is in control.

As for Laura’s seemingly ridiculous adherence to the wedding, I would venture to say that she feels it would be inappropriate to marry Walter and thus in her despair she doesn’t seem to care what else happens. She did think, though, that Sir Percival would release her from their engagement, but his pecuniary needs prevent him from doing so. I am anxious to find out what happens to Laura now that her marriage is official, and I also look forward to finding out more about the mysterious Anne Catherick.
Woman in White


message 22: by Frances (last edited Dec 03, 2012 06:38PM) (new)

Frances (FrancesAB) Chapters 22-26: This is initially a puzzling section as we start to get various short narratives or "witness statements" about what happens to Lady Glyde as her illness advances. This takes on the feels of an epistolary novel with the varying first person accounts, but also continues to build on the suspenseful feel of the women isolated from each other and from the world by the machinations of the Baronet and of Count Fosco. While the Baronet is frightening in his brutality and his overt threats and intimidation, the Count makes one feel completely off guard as he maintains the facade of gentility and yet is so clearly in control of everything. When the staff are almost completely removed from the estate it becomes clear that there are goings on that cannot be witnessed and the complete isolation becomes unbearably oppressive.

(view spoiler)


message 23: by Sarah (new)

Sarah As the story progresses, the atmosphere becomes increasingly grim and mysterious. The evolution of the characters also reflects this, as Laura becomes frighteningly calm and cool and Marian develops a suspicious attitude toward the housemembers at Blackwater Park, the very name of which evokes a murky and perilous image. Sir Percival drops his pretense of caring and reveals his true dark nature, as evidenced when he nonchalantly discusses murder. This topic, in turn, provides a view of Count Fosco as he presents his philosophy that the wise criminal is the one who doesn’t get caught, a startling sentiment from a man who offers himself as a genial companion but who apparently hides some sinister aspect of his character. Perhaps Marian sums it up best when she writes, “Women can resist a man’s love, a man’s fame, a man’s personal appearance, a man’s money, but they cannot resist a man’s tongue when he knows how to talk to them.”

Added to this is the mysterious figure whom Marian and Laura see while taking an evening walk to the lake. Like so many of the characters, this one is at first cloaked in secrecy, and it is unclear whether this stranger is a male or a female and, more importantly, why he or she was following the two women. Anne Catherick’s continued hold over the story is also obvious; interestingly, although she has not actually made a physical appearance, she is able to influence how the other characters feel and act. The key to the mystery seems to lie with her, and the eerie brilliance of the nineteenth-century mystery novel shines forth. Without any sensational horror, Collins is able to evoke a sense of dread and terror.


message 24: by Sarah (new)

Sarah This novel has become more and more intense and thrilling, definitely demonstrative of the sensationalist literature that derived from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Despite a formerly slow, steady approach, by the middle of the book the pace has become decidedly frantic in response to the characters’ narratives. This is one aspect that makes me appreciate the epistolary format—the reader is able to engage more thoroughly in the story and feel the characters’ emotions with them. The character of Fosco is one that I find to be among the most interesting. He is so manipulative and bold, with an enormous extroverted presence, and he is able to relate to others in such a way as to work to his own advantage, yet at the same time one is unsure whether or not he has a true benign aspect to his nature. On the contrary, Eliza Michelson is almost comical in relating her narrative because, although it seems that she has a good heart, she is constantly asserting that she can’t or won’t say something but then she goes on to do so anyway. I personally find her to be rather pretentious.

The theme of identity is certainly an interesting and pivotal one in this novel. Collins uses it to enhance the mystery which enshrouds the various narratives. Lady Glyde seems to represent the ideal woman (as defined by the Cult of True Womanhood, which existed between 1820 and 1850), while Marian displays qualities that are quite masculine, yet she is really more of a heroine than her sister. This interests me because it demonstrates a divergence from typical social roles. I would love to hear any thoughts that others might have on this.

(view spoiler)


message 25: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Having finished the novel, I feel like I have been on a roller coaster ride! I can certainly see why The Woman in White is considered with the genre of sensationalist literature. (view spoiler) The constant flux of twists and turns threw doubt on how the novel would end, which made it more interesting and exciting. I thought that the re-emergence of minor characters was worth noting too, as Collins weaves a tapestry of intrigue that requires every stitch to be examined and counted. I have thoroughly enjoyed this novel, and hope to read more of Collins’ work in the future!


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