The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

My second Collins was just as wonderful as my first – I often wonder why it has taken me so long to take the plunge to read his work.

This novel is a slow burn to begin with as Collins introduces his colourful characters and sets his haunting scene. ‘The Woman in White’ sets Walter Hartright on quite an adventure. There are many twists and turns as Hartright and Marian try to ensure that Laura is safe from Sir Percival Glyde and the literally larger-than-life Count Fosco. How can they ensure that her fate does not mirror that of ‘The Woman in White’?

It is one of the best classic mystery novels. However, there are those that have described it as a ‘ghost’ story. Now, I know for some that does not seem to make sense. Collins had not written your traditional ghostly tale, however I think there are ghosts in this tale. This is about the ghosts of past lives, not the ghost of dead souls. This tale, for me, is one that warns about the risks of the past catching up with you and the lengths to which some people will go to keep those ghosts buried. And, let’s be honest, for the rather Mr Fairie – he is eventually made to feel like he is seeing a ghost…

This is, on some levels, a novel of its time – women being manipulated by men (appearing not to have the character not to be), however, there are moments when that is challenged slightly. Yet one of the things about the classics is that they are written in the past and that should not ever taint our view of a good story. Collins may have had some views we would not always agree with now, but he was a master storyteller and deserves his classic author status.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

The Bookstagram community has been one of the best spaces I have found. It has brought together so many fabulous bookish people and it has encouraged me to read all sorts of books that I may not have read or have had on the to-be-read pile for a while.

My latest read-along (that I actually managed to complete and stick to) was ‘The Moonstone’, as part of the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’. This has been a lovely community where, in the month of November, we read a section a week shared our thoughts. There have been great discussions and such a friendly atmosphere (and the end of November does not mean that the chatting stops).

And, now to the novel, my only regret has been that I did not read this sooner. ‘The Moonstone’ is a story I have known for a long time thanks to TV and Radio adaptations, but I had never got round to picking the book up. What wasted time that was because I absolutely loved this!

From the moment I started this book I could not put it down. Collins created a wonderful detective story (some say the first modern one in fact) from the word go. You are drawn into the narrative by how ‘The Moonstone’ ended up leaving India and arriving in England. Even that simple introduction is shrouded in mystery just as the rest of the tale is. Collins creates a colourful cast of characters who become mixed up in the mystery of ‘The Moonstone’. However, together, they eventually also manage to solve the mystery of this magnificent stone.

This is a tale that has stood the test of time as it can still engage modern audiences. However, it is also a novel of its time with references specific to the period but all of that is the context of the era.

Reading ‘The Moonstone’ has firmly cemented Wilkie Collins in the territory of one of my favourite authors of the classics. I can not wait for the next read with the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’, which is ‘The Woman in White’ in January.

Toto – The Dog-gone Amazing Story of the Wizard of Oz by Michael Morpurgo

One thing on the New Year’s Honours list was Sir Michael Morpurgo. This is a man who has done so much for Children’s literature, he has brought the love reading and appreciation of History to so many over the years that it was a well-deserved accolade. I still remember that ‘The Wreck of Zanzibar’ was the first Morpurgo book I read, and I have not stopped since.

I admire writers bringing the classics to a new generation or offering a new perspective of a well-loved tale – it is quite a talent. I admit that I have never read the original ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and I do have a little bit of a fear of the original film (although I do love ‘Wicked’) – however, the beautiful illustrations by Emma Chichester-Clark on the cover and the name of Morpurgo attracted me to this book.

The story is told from the perspective of Dorothy’s loyal companion Toto. From my knowledge of the original tale (and the skill of Morpurgo) it is faithful to the original and the characters have the same charm. I enjoyed this book from the word go – drawn in by the skill of the storytelling and the beauty of the illustrations. I am now tempted to finally read the original classic tale to have an even better understanding of the story. However, this book is a lovely way to introduce children to a classic novel.

Have you read any retellings of the classic? Any you would recommend?