Wilkie Collins, the intricate plot genius

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“The Woman in White” is divided into three epochs. Several narrators tell the thick fiction as you can find in “The Moonstone”. This method encourages readers, at least I, to switch my perspective each time the narration is told by different character. Failing to do this may have put me in unfair stance.

I almost failed to differentiate when Count Fosco took the pen from Marian Halcombe when she was falling ill. After many pages she was controlling my thought, it was shocking that Mr. Collins instead to have chosen the Count who was in charge of the story. Here, my job as an objective reader was best tested. As much as I sympathized with Marian Halcombe’s courage and good deeds for her half-sister, Laura Fairlie, I needed to have understood on my roles as good reader. This means I needed to absorb each and every character here so that I would get overall messages and felt all atmospheres. In this regard, I needed to read the minds of the protagonists, the Count was one of them.

The second aspect that require high focus in reading the book is that Mr. Collins chooses back-and-forth pattern. If readers don’t get themselves engaged in the fiction, they will get lost on plentiful detailed clues Mr. Collins offers about the woman in white or following mysteries after her appearance. Failing to do all of that will make readers won’t feel stingy sensation the novel has that earns it the first sensation novel.

Mr. Collins really fascinates me with his way of foreshadowing. He puts small things that don’t only invite readers hard to put it down but also key to grand secret in the book. Who would have thought that the blank page of the marriage registry at Old Welmingham’s vestry was the disclosed point of Sir Percival Glyde’s forgery? Who would have guessed that the date of Laura Fairlie’s leaving the Blackwater Park would disclose her status as a living human being, not Anne Catherick?

To add the already complicated plot, Mr. Collins places spies here and there. Since the coming of Anne Catherick in the Limmeredge House and the surrounding, I felt like the lives of each of the character were being watched. Anne Catherick was watching over the life of Laura Fairlie for good reasons, fortunately. Walter Hartright was being watched by people from Sir Percival Glyde and the Count. Mariam Halcombe was under radar of the Count and Madame Fosco in the Blackwater Park. Almost each character was playing as a spy for another character. Suspicious gestures, unusual habits were enough clues to have stirred for spying.

With those methods in his mind, Mr. Collins utilizes them all to have weaved his messages in such smooth, wonderful and unexpected ways I could have never imagined. Moral decay, scandal, wounds from the past, feminism, inter-class romance are some that he conveys in the fiction. You won’t find them new, of course. But the way Mr. Collins presenting them all will make you viewing the themes in refreshed, unique lights.

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“The Woman in White”: How does it feel to have read 90 pages every day

I had intended to write my second part of “The Woman in White” reading process in this blog after I did the first one. But before I had typed this second part, I completed reading the novel two days ago. As many as 619 pages were done in seven days. I read about 90 pages per day. Call me a mad reader because I believed so. The book was driving me crazy.. in many good ways I had never thought it would be capable of.

I don’t want to boast on the number of the pages I read in this blog post. I strongly believe there are a lot of, a lot of bookworms out there who are crazier than I am when it comes to speed reading. I will only speed up when I have a good novel in my hands. When a book isn’t that challenging, I will drag myself to even finish it. So, needless to say here that “The Woman in White” is indeed good, very, super incredible one that you need to try reading it, especially if you love sensational stories or mysterious fictions.

“The Woman in White” isn’t an easy book. I thought it would be around the riddle of who the woman in white was. In this regard, I had thought the key of the story would be who was Anne Catherick by the end of the very lengthy book. I was deceived. The name and the background of the woman was revealed much earlier that I had expected. Her appearance stimulated overall secret within the lives of the major characters in the book. Like a snowball, the first riddle led to grander mysteries than I could have never imagined.

With the whereabouts of the woman in white became the entry matter that triggered my curiosity, I read the book page per page. I was enjoying the superb writing talent of Wilkie Collins, the author of the novel. As a Victorian writer, he didn’t forget to describe people, scene, scenery, movement of time and character in beautiful, wonderful language that captivated me as a hard fan of imaginative stories.

I made use of my available time to have resumed reading the book. As the mystery had strongly stirred my curiosity with the amazing writing style, I didn’t want to miss a day not reading the book. I kept working as usual. Thankfully, I finished a book writing project on-time. In between the writing job, I spent reading the book. I still managed to have gone to bed before 12 a.m and woke up feeling fresh and healthy to yes, reading the novel again.

The key of completing the book so quickly while deeply connected with every single sensation of the story is that I was attempting to have put my mind at its best concentration even after I closed the book for that day. In some nights before I went to sleep, I talked to myself on possible ending of the story and the answer for the puzzles. As crazy as that sounds, the method assisted me to have engaged with the plot and made me so excited for the next day’s reading. To this, I owe so much to Mr. Collins. Enjoying this brain exercise brought me a qualified pleasure. Given my ability to have controlled the fondness of the book, I was enjoying it proportionately despite the fact of the 90 pages per day.

In addition to have been curious on the first mystery, my brain worked at the hardest to have guessed what this and that clue scattered in the whole story. Later on, the guidance led to something bigger, terrible that made up the big themes here. For instance, the anonymous letter by Anne to Laura Fairlie that warned the latter on her future husband Sir Percival Glyde at the start of the book.

What makes this exercise even more complicated is that I needed to have guessed what were laying beneath the expressions of some characters. Mr. Collins gave hidden clues through facial and verbal expressions that if we didn’t pay attention enough, we wouldn’t catch sensational, thrilling tones of the book let alone understood what did they contribute to the whole ideas.

I would like to take Count Fosco as best example for this regard. I remember very much when Marian Halcombe said in her diary how she liked him the very first time she met before she loathed him very much later on. Marian said that Count Fosco was very clever in amusing strangers, talkative and very friendly. This is later proven by Walter Hartright as the story draws to a close. Walter said the Count greeted store keepers in his route to an opera for buying a ticket. The Count was humming to himself, knowing to entertain himself thus he looked like a 40-year old man instead of his actual 60 years old. I would later discuss on the Count in another blog post.

Facial expressions were playing big roles in the book because this aspect, as a matter of fact, had been deceitful. This time around, I take Sir Percival Glyde as an example. Marian Halcombe thought she had best reasons to let Walter ended his teaching term earlier as he was known to have loved Laura while she was engaged to Sir Percival Glyde. For Marian, Laura’s fiancee was a respected, honorable man. And I felt that too when reading his response and his behavior, particularly when Laura told him he didn’t want to marry him. Sir Percival Glyde didn’t get angry, curse or whatsoever. He took the ill news wisely. Here, as a reader, I thought Laura would learn to love him because I thought Sir Percival Glyde was a good person who was worthy of loving back. But I was deceived as his true attitude was revealed during the six-month honeymoon in Italy.

I would like to write more but I am afraid the post would be very long to read. I end it here and I hope you still want to read other posts about the book.

“The Woman in White” Is Such A Page-Turner That I Can Read 50 Pages Per Day!

It is so well-deserved wait for “The Woman in White”. I had been longing reading the book after I completed reading “The Moonstone”, my first attempt reading books by Wilkie Collins which turned out to be unforgettable experience for me. As a longtime fan of romantic, feminism, realistic, social stories by Thomas Hardy, George Eliot, Bronte sisters and lately Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins is such a refreshment. “The Moonstone” has opened my eyes on enduring charm of detective, mysterious story can offer.

So when I found out that “The Woman in White” is better than “The Moonstone”, I, of course, put it on top of my would-be read list. After some moments, I discovered the book at my favorite bookstore in Jakarta but I didn’t buy it because it was pricey. I left the store, thought about the book then felt disappointed that the book was gone into someone else’s hands.

Last month, I was joyful that the store restocked the title in different version. I almost bought it before my friend, Wida, reminded me that our good pal, Dian, promised to bring the book when she arrived in Jakarta some weeks after our errand at the store. Again, I had to wait for the novel.

Three days ago, Dian fulfilled her vow. I was so happy that I eventually got the novel I had been looking forward for months. Call me too much, my friends, but when it comes to fictions, I can be that, yeah, you know, that much.

“The Woman in White” is surprisingly very thick. I thought it would be like 300 pages, like “The Moonstone”. Yet, it doubles that number. I was a little bit shocked to have found the number but after I looked at the book’s font, I wholly believed that I would finish the book, sooner or later.

I never thought I read the novel way quicker that I had planned. As I’m writing this post, I am at 174 out of 627 pages. It has been a crazy process. I didn’t intend this all, blame the book, LOL!

I would like to thank Mr. Collins, first of all, for pulling me out from another comfortable reading zone. While “The Moonstone” successfully wows me on detective stories, “The Woman in White” challenges me as a self-denounced coward. Really, I am afraid of watching or reading horror books. As my reading progress of the novel sees, I try hard not to visualize the woman in white alias Anne Catherick. She’s not a ghost, by the way, but she suffers from mental illness since very early age. She is put into a private asylum but later on, she is able to escape. The novel turns out as non-ghostly kind of story but Mr. Collins creates scary atmosphere here and there. I have to prepare myself when Anne comes up in the novel because she is strange, hysterical when she hears something related to the asylum or Sir Percival Glyde.

Thankfully, Mr. Collins doesn’t mention her all the time. And this what makes the novel very engrossing for me. I know why “The Woman in White” is in better quality than “The Moonstone”. On the surface, Mr. Collins exquisitely describe people in the book, landscape, settings and many more. To sum it up in this point, the novel is so Victorian in a way that it is beautifully crafted.

The plot moves so, so smooth. I don’t see, at least for the time being, that there lies a gap between one scene to the other. All lead up to some grand themes which surprises me because I thought the one and only primary subject of the book would be the woman in white.

In fact, I found serious and diverse themes wrapped in this very packed book (though for 174 pages so far). I got views on cultural issues between UK natives and Italians, as seen in Mr. Pesca, good friend of Mr. Walter Hartright and Mr. Phillip Fairlie’s hatred to  Count Fosco.

Romance between Mr. Walter Hartright to Miss Laura Fairlie isn’t something new as the former is a layman while the latter inherits huge amount of money and property. Mr. Collins’s rigid explanations on the forbidden love story is what makes the novel somehow remains essential and captivating to look forward.

That is what I have got so far from the pages I finished reading. It’s thrilling, saddening, emotional. There will be many to be written I think in the next posts. For now, I will go to sleep, hehee..

 

It looks like I, Agatha Christie ‘are not meant for each other’

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Back in last December, I asked for my best friend, Erwida, to lend me any titles by Agatha Christie because I know Wida is the big fan of Christies’ books. When we met early this year she asked for my intention reading her books because, this time around, she knows I don’t really into any detective stories.
I told her I wanted to read Christie’s stories because I have planned creating my own fiction about mystery so I wish I will learn how Christie develops her plots. In addition, I once planned to watch “Murder on Orient Express” movie version after I saw its ads in one of the cinemas in Tangerang last year. It looked like the movie was good. I then realized the title was from Christie’s best-selling fiction of the same title.
Since I have planned to write the fiction of my own then why don’t I read books about detective stories? For how many years I barely remember most fans of detective stories have applauded Christie as the queen of mysterious or crime stories. So my mind quickly shifted to her books as, you may say, ‘source of inspiration’ in writing technique.
That very day, in a busy shopping mall in the heart of Indonesia’s capital Jakarta, I and Wida had a very nice time to chat and laugh, as usual. She brought me “Murder in Mesopotamia”, one of her most favorites from the author. I had a chance to have read the book a month later after I had completed reading “The Moonstone”. While The Moonstone was mind blowing as you read from some number of posts in this blog, reading “Murder in Mesopotamia” was a disastrous for me (I’m sorry Wida, we just have different taste)
Let alone I was able to obtain something about Christie’s technique, I felt like I was in a speedy ride for the story that wasn’t supposed to be told in such a rush. I was actually curious with the name of the lady who becomes the subject of ‘being taken care of’ in the novel but how was I supposed to get to know her if the way of getting there was so forceful?
Sentences are relatively short. Descriptions about people and places are very clear. Christie doesn’t invite me to imagine the characters’ souls in the book. The movement from one scene to another is clearly directed. It goes like “after this, she does that then goes from here to there… “ Something like that.
No rooms for imaginations. No chance to create suspense atmosphere within my body and my mind. How was I supposed to enjoy that kind of story? Again, I find it very hard to read fictions that apply ‘telling’ instead of ‘showing’ kind of method.
This is completely different with Wilkie Collins when he writes “The Moonstone”. Taking the same genre about detective stories, Collins puts a lot of descriptions about places, characters, histories. With his very smooth plot, the scenes leading up to the novel’s climaxes are fruitful thus leaving me with very impressive marks until now.
I don’t mean to insult Christie though. She is the best-selling author in terms of mysterious and crime books until now, and who am I by the way? I think it is all about a matter of reading and writing style preference. So for all Christie fans who happen reading this forgive me if this post sounds harsh to you all.
Anyway, I gave up reading “Murder in Mesopotamia” when I was at the page of 39 0ut of 351. Still a very long way to go but sometimes quitting a journey that bores you to death is the best thing you can do.

‘The Moonstone’ Madness: the Disturbing Miss Clack

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A sense of horror struck me when I was reading the last sentences of the narration of Miss Drusilla Clack. The character that I firstly think as honest, modest and innocent starts becoming so aggressive when she was trying to persuade Rachel Verrinder staying with her after the teen’s mother passed away.
The scene was Rachel decided to go with her lawyer, Mr. Bruff, after she cancelled a planned wedding with Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite. Prior to the moment when she was about to leave with the lawyer, the father of Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite confronted her. He was absolutely disappointed with Rachel’s decision then recalled memories concerning him and Rachel’s aunt.
As the confrontation was becoming weary, Miss Clack was trying to calm the situation down by citing religious verses from the Bible. Instead of cooling this down, Mr. Abblewhite got angrier. I had felt something strange about Miss Clack and my assumption was affirmed when she was attempting to force Rachel staying with her. Miss Clack wished she could make Rachel ‘a Christian’. But her way of making Rachel closer to God was a little bit forceful and improper.
Her narration ended when Miss Clack was saying she forgave Rachel for insulting her while as a matter of fact it was actually Rachel who was afraid of Miss Clack’s method of approaching her.
Days before that, Miss Clack had actually been acting a bit too much in relation to Lady Verrinder. When the Lady was severely ill, Miss Clack, again, wished she could ‘escort’ her relative resting in peace. As such, she was attempting to put some amounts of religious books to her. I think her effort aimed at making Lady Verrinder closer to God and be purified from her sins.
Miss Clack put books in several spots in the Lady’s house in hope that she would find then read them but until the day she was dead the books remained unread. They were returned to Miss Clack instead.
Throughout The Moonstone, this particular person completely confuses me. First, it is quite strange that Wilkie Collins selects her as one of the narratives in the book since she wasn’t present in the birthday dinner of the Rachel Verrinder which later saw the Moonstone went missing.
Miss Clack is, by the way, the niece of Sir John Verrinder, Rachel’s father. Her narration becomes sort of ‘entrapment’ for me after I resume reading the book. I can feel her strong admiration to Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite. She was spying his conversation with Rachel Verrinder on the day he proposed her. Following Miss Clack’s narration of the tale makes me despise Rachel even more (since she is a stubborn girl since the beginning of the book) and put sympathy to Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite. I think the reason why Collins places Miss Clack is to ‘deceive’ readers, at least that happens to me, LOL. You know that I get my guess completely wrong for Mr. Godfrey Abblewhite is the villain of them all because of his huge debts.
Thank God Miss Clack emerges briefly in the book if not, I can’t imagine how ambiguous the novel would be.

‘The Moonstone’ Madness: Homecoming as way to solve problems

I love the ways the story begins and ends in the same place. The Moonstone is firstly seen in a shrine surrounded by Hindoos and as the novel ends, it comes back to where it belongs.
Interestingly, Mr. Franklin Blake returns to his aunt’s residence to investigate on the missing gem on his own given his intention to clear up all the mess between him and Rachel Verrinder. To the Yorkshire the indebted man goes back, almost one year after the incident occurs. One year being in the East doesn’t help him taking the mystery out of his head.
With the help of Ezra Jennings, he is able to restore his good name, especially in front of Rachel. He is capable of explaining what exactly happens after Rachel’s birthday dinner. I’m sorry to put a lot of spoilers here for writing this part is inevitable. It is true that Mr. Franklin Blake is the one who steals the diamond with the knowing of Rachel.

That explains her attitude to the man whom she really loves is 180 degrees in contrary to what she used to do to him.
But Mr. Franklin Blake does that unconsciously. He falls under the influence of laudanum, a mixture of opium and alcohol, put by Mr. Candy, a doctor who is upset with Mr. Franklin Blake’s harsh words toward his profession as a doctor. So the mess starts from Mr. Franklin Blake’s jokes to Mr. Candy that later turns to his laudanum consumption. Since he is overwhelmed with the Moonstone, Mr. Franklin Blake goes to the Rachel’s room then takes it in order to put it in a safe place.
Readers will find this out as the novel progresses toward its finale. One by one all riddles are put to the surface but first of all readers must dwell so long upon clues, opinions, ideas that come up throughout the book. Thanks to Wilkie Collins’ sophisticated writing technique, the story moves fast that barely leaves readers get bored.
In an attempt to reveal all riddles, such as the smear of the nightgown hidden by Rosanna Spearman, Mr. Franklin Blake has to come back to where the late hides the box carrying the gown. Also, Mr. Franklin Blake has to meet Rachel and Sergeant Cuff to gather their statements. Plus, the gentleman has to invite Mr. Candy who falls so ill because of the fever and fatigue he suffers after the birthday event.
It is quite surprising that Ezra Jennings, much like Rosanna Spearman, emerges when the book starts getting complicated. The figure that I think will play a minor role turns out to the savior for Mr. Franklin Blake and Rachel. This is because Ezra Jennings initiates to put laudanum into the body of Mr. Franklin Blake, orders things as the way they were one year ago, invites Mr. Bruff as a witness then starts the experiment.
From his crazy idea it turns out that Mr. Franklin Blake does what he exactly does when the gemstone goes missing. While the characters are busy solving the riddles, the Moonstone for about one year is on the bank in London under the hands of Mr. Septimus Luker. During that time three Hindoos hunt it down. They are finally able to get it back then they give it to the caretaker of the gemstone in the shrine of a sacred city called Kattiawar in India.
I am myself so drown with the idea of starting things from the very beginning to solve problems in Mr. Franklin Blake’s life and the people concerning the Moonstone. Taking this story into my personal opinions, the idea of tracing things from the very roots are very challenging yet so worthy of trying to do in one’s life. Doing this requires bravery as Mr. Franklin Blake does. Sometimes, doing this will be fruitful or will not be.
While getting back to where the problems come may face us with painful memories, failures and nostalgia, our hearts are purified along the processes. All scars, heartbreaks will somehow be cleaned up while we battle to find solutions or answers. Much like walking on two sides of completely different views; one is full of tears or mess, the other one starts providing us with crystal clear outcomes. This is one of the wars one so worthy of trying.
And Mr. Franklin Blake succeeds in doing that. Not only the mess concerning the Moonstone is over, he and Rachel eventually gets married. I love Collins’ idea of bringing things back to start something new and fresh, as what happens to Mr. Franklin Blake. We can associate his experiences with our lives in whatever problems or trauma we encounter.

 

The Moonstone Madness: Collins’ sophisticated way of storytelling

Something new happens as I turn every leaf of The Moonstone. For 430 pages+ my mind has to be in a full concentration reading the book because the mystery surrounding the missing jewel presents me with new twists, evidences, opinions and ideas from characters in the book I mustn’t miss unless I don’t savor the core joy of the masterpiece.
I find it so fascinating that the book runs fast given how it presents readers with riddles, surprises, theories and assumptions along the way concerning who takes the jewel and where the hell it is. Wilkie Collins is indeed a rare Victorian novelist who does what he accomplishes in The Moonstone.
Though the story is all about the missing diamond, you mustn’t guess the plot is simple. In fact, it tells readers more complicated ideas representing Collins’ perspectives. What I once think as mere personal obsession concerning the diamond and history cum superstitions about the precious gem is a first layer on the surface. Because beneath it there lay problems about family conflicts, debts, inheritance issues, stories on estranged people, love and money, reputation, health, drugs and personal disguises. So many themes, right?
And Collins wraps them all so smoothly in the book so you can understand how the book runs so quick to speak them all to readers. I will divide my reviews and opinions and things that bother my mind after reading in several posts. The book is very interesting to be talked about and this is my first post that makes me wonder on how Collins weaves his story.
First and foremost, this is my first experience reading a book from several points of view. I think the story will be from Gabriel Betteredge only as the first person who knows from the start of the pricey gem from Colonel John Herncastle until it eventually be found.

The truth is, Gabriel voices about one third of the overall tale. He tells the readers the past story of the Moonstone until it arrives at the hand of Mr. Franklin Blake, how it goes missing on the night after the 18th birthday of Miss Rachel Verrinder then some attempts to find it by the brilliant Sergeant Cuff.
Just when I think I believe it is Rachel Verrinder is the one who steals it as believed by the Sergeant, the novel completely shatters my opinion. At that time, the novel is only 100 pages long so that means so many things left mysterious as it goes on. This what makes this book starts ‘deceiving’ my mind and triggers my curiosity even more.
As the book enters the one third part, there comes narrative from Miss Clark, one of the relatives of Miss Rachel. Again, Collins deceives me. What I once think Miss Clark as someone so modest, honest and highly spiritual but as her narration moves forward I find myself so irritated by her personality. I will later discuss about her in another post.
Then, another narration comes from Mr. Franklin Blake itself which really shocks me as the reader of the book as much as it rattles the gentleman’s logic. His narrative becomes the most important one throughout the tale as many proofs are eventually revealed to make things even stranger than they already are.
The following of the story are contributed by Ezra Jennings, the assistant of Mr. Candy, a doctor living nearby the residence of the Verrinder family. It is from the assistant that the riddles are slowly answered. From then, one big question on who takes the diamond is discovered. But there remains another big one, who the hell is it now?
To answer this, the narration comes back to Mr. Franklin Blake. Not only the readers will find the whereabouts of the Moonstone but also they will be shocked finding who the real antagonist in the story is.
As all are settled, the narration returns to Gabriel Betteredge who bids farewell to all who enjoy the story. The last part of the book is told by Mr. Murthwaite in a letter to Mr. Bruff, the Verrinder’s family lawyer, as what finally happens with the most-wanted jewel in the masterpiece.
So you can feel how complicated Collins’ way of telling by looking at a number of different people who narrate the story. Different story tellers mean readers are invited to look into their minds and feelings, which, of course, are various. This makes me really admire Collins’ writing technique. It isn’t easy to write from so many angles. His chosen method makes the story even more difficult to lose track of amid reading it.