The First Epoch: The Story Begun by Walter Hartright, Chapters I-VIII
(WARNING: I’m not going to make a huge effort to avoid spoilers in this post, so all you who have never read the book, be ye warned! Read at your own literary risk.)
‘There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road – there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven – stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments; her face bent in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud over London, as I faced her.‘
My copy of this book (donated to me by the generous Richard of Caravana de recuerdos) claims that The Woman in White is the first and greatest ‘Sensation Novel’. I can testify to it’s sensationalism! It is spine tinglingly exciting from the get go, when Walter Hartright, teacher of drawing, begins by hinting mightily about the strange and mysterious events he’s in the process of revealing – (and makes some apt observations about the Law, which even to this day is, ‘in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse’!)
Walter so far is not incredibly interesting, but as he moves to Limmeridge House to take up a teaching engagement, the people he encounters along the way are delightful. From the hilarious Pesca, the little Italian who loves English ways, to the horribly finicky Mr Fairlie, Collins has already imagined up a fine crop of fun characters.
Marian Halcombe, who along with her half sister Laura Fairlie, is the student of art that Walter was summoned to assist, is especially fine. Her snappy conversation and lively opinions, as well as her quick curiosity, make her instantly my favorite character thus far.
Aside from the thrilling moment when the Woman appeared in the night, the ending of chapter VIII with it’s (sensational) revelation about the similarity of appearance between Laura and the Woman, has proved that my attention will be kept and held for the remaining 500+ pages.
If the opinions of our Big Read V host Lelia interest you, check them out here. Next installment coming around the 8th.