Firstly, this book is fabulous. My expectations were fully justified. It's got a bit of mystery, a bit of love and even times of spine-tingling suspense. I've decided not to go into a long dissertation about all that struck my fancy, or irked me, for that matter. Instead, each week, I'll share some nifty little drawings (in honor of our fearless, and somewhat silly narrator) I was inspired to make - most have little significance to the overall story and most will probably be food, since I'm preoccupied by it - along with a few comments that just wouldn't leave my head.
Walter, our first narrator. I have mixed feelings about Walter. This guy - well, let's just say we probably wouldn't be the very best of friends. It has nothing to do with him being an artist, as I am married to one that I adore, but rather his unbridled sappiness. I just can't do sappy. When Marian is reading through her mother's letters and has found that one single letter to connect the Woman in White to Limmeridge House and - what does he do? He's distracted by Miss Fairlie, the reading of Mrs. Fairlie's letter being interrupted five times. I swear, I wanted to smack him; his attention span was not what I wanted it to be.
And I do want to add, that looking back to the beginning of the book, it's funny that Walter seems so silly to me now. For Pesca was such an over the top character (I imagined him like a leprechaun bouncing around, knocking Precious, Delicate things to the floor) that I think Collins was trying to contrast Walter with Pesca, painting Walter as the Level-Headed perfect gentleman of the time, all the while at Limmeridge House he was just sap sap sap. Or maybe Collins was going for that real men cry, too thing. And age is no excuse for sappiness. (Gosh, I sure am a grumpy thing this morning.)
Marian Holcombe, my heroine. As soon as Marian came into the picture, I was overjoyed. I knew from the sentences, "Shall we shake hands? I suppose we must come to it sooner or later - and why not sooner?" that I would love her and see myself in her. (Wait - did I just admit that I love myself?)
I identify with her annoyance toward her own sex. Her strong handshakes. I don't hate or even dislike dear Walter, but when Marian started talking I couldn't wait to read her part of the story. What did she have to say about all this? In her own words, not through Walter's breathy, glassy-eyed talk.
Marian may even come off as protective, but bossy (another something that I identify with). Her insistence that Walter leave Limmeridge House amiably - "leave us like a friend, break bread with us once more" - is admirable. Here I would also like to digress for a minute: food. Yes, I know you were waiting for it. The symbol, here, of friendship is breaking bread, dining together. I nearly Walter-swooned myself when I read this. How wonderful to know that my heroine believes, as I do, in the power of food, in the power a meal can have when fellowship happens around it. But, let's get real, that meal was a strained one. Walter admits the sacrifice Miss Fairlie has to go through to keep up her Lovely facade. And yet - it is probably this meal and the fellowship thereafter that makes the almost bitterless, content good-bye possible.
Miss Fairlie, the normal girl covered in glass. I don't like or dislike her. I feel she is a very normal, healthy, girl that has been made delicate by the people around her. I suspected this from the beginning, but was sure when she dropped her hands down in anger after "her fingers wavered on the piano; she struck a false note; confused herself in trying to sit it right." This girl is not a precious china doll, but rather, a real person.
The Woman in White, hmmmmm. My instinct so far tells me nothing except: psycho. Walter relates her Dark Side: "A most extraordinary and startling change passed over her. Her face, at all ordinary times so touching to look at, in its nervous sensitiveness, weakness, and uncertainty, became suddenly darkened by an expression of manically intense hatred and fear, which communicated a wild, unnatural force to every feature." Two syllables: psy-cho. And that's probably not very nice of me to say - especially if she was forced into a private asylum with sketchy practices. More on her later, I'm sure.