The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (Brief Thoughts on a Reread)

The first time I experienced Wilkie Collins’s masterpiece two years ago (gushing positive thoughts here), it was via an amateur audiobook recording at Librivox and it took me more than a month. I loved the unknown suspense as I tried to anticipate what was coming, I loved the plot, I loved the well developed characters, and the recording was very well done, especially considering it was amateurs.

On this reread, I started it at a similar leisurely pace but then I could not put it down and I read the last three hundred pages in one day (I love leisurely weekends!). I felt compelled to keep turning pages because, let’s face it, The Woman in White (published 1859) has wonderful pacing, a great plot, and characters that one can’t help but love (and love to hate). Because I already had read this book before, I knew what was coming. I did not wonder about the mysteries as I read this time. Rereading it was delightful because I could see even better how Wilkie Collins managed to accomplish his purposes. Although this read didn’t have the element of the unknown, it did have the familiarity of the characters

Because I am a huge fan of rereading, I do want to note here that on this particular reread I came to better appreciate the non-spoiler crowd out there. Because I knew what was coming, the book didn’t have the emotional surprise that it had on my first read. I couldn’t put it down because I did know the twists and surprises that were coming and I wanted to read until That Part time and again, but at the same time, I already knew it. It was no longer a surprise. If there is a book I wish I could read again for the first time (this week’s Top Ten Tuesday question) , The Woman in White would have to be it.

The fall season is perfect for reading The Woman in White because the book has graveyard scenes, scenes on misty London roads, and mysterious secrets to discover.

If you haven’t read it yet, I am very jealous. Enjoy!

(Kids Corner) Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka

It’s fall! Although I’ll be the first to tell you that I love spring, summer, and fall equally well throughout the year (I could do without winter and the month of August), once the leaves start falling and crunching under my feet and the weather gets cool enough to pull out my sweaters, I consider autumn the best season of all1 . I’m not a Halloween fan per se (I hate scary costumes and horror and greedy kids wanting candy) but I love pumpkin pie and pumpkins and fall colors on the trees. I love watching the world change in to a new one.

Fall Mixed Up by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Chad Cameron celebrates the favorite things about the season — but somehow, is descriptions of the season have gotten a bit confused. From “Septober” and “Octember” to geese hibernating and squirrels flying south, it’s a rather silly book about a favorite season. The text reveals a number of mixed up autumn things, and Chad Cameron’s detailed and bright paintings capture the confusion by making the impossibilities come alive. Raisin and I loved finding the silly things on each page. As we were reading, Raisin stopped me at one point and said with delight, “Mom, there’s something wrong on every page!”

If you and your child are fans of autumn, you too may love the silliness of Fall Mixed Up. My favorite pages were those with the leaves falling up, the children jumping in piles of sticks, and the Thanksgiving table filled with sweets. I also loved the image of the squirrels flying south. I asked Raisin for his favorite pages and he could not settle on one. How could he, when each page had many treasures of silliness to enjoy? How silly the world would be if this season were “Fall Mixed Up!”

Highly recommended.

Fall Mixed Up was published September 2011 by Lerner Publishing, Carolrhoda Books. I read a digital galley for purposes of review via of netgalley.com.

  1. When the weather warms up in April and the buds appear on the trees, I’ll say the same of spring

RIP Short Story Monday: “The Friends of the Friends” and “The Monkey’s Paw”

I’ve said many times I’m not a fan of horror or ghost stories, but the gentle spookiness of the stories in my ghost story collection has been wonderfully fun. This week’s stories, “The Friends of the Friends” by Henry James (1896) and “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs (1902) were very different, but both of them left me with a sense of delightful unease. It made me happy to live in my own, non-ghost inhabited world.

In “The Friends of the Friends,”  Henry James tells the story of two strangely similar people who have claimed to see ghosts in their lives. The two friends of the narrator, as well as the narrator herself, all remain nameless, which to me added to the eerie, anonymous feel of the story. Henry James’ careful and ponderous writing slows down the plot of the story: this becomes a psychological look at the narrator’s growing jealousy, rather than a plot-induced ghost story. I liked the overall feel of the story, and the twists at the end were wonderful. What really happened? We get everything through the perspective of the paranoid and unreliable narrator. I certainly enjoyed the unknown in “The Friends of the Friends.”

“The Monkey’s Paw” is a completely different feel, style, subject. Using mostly dialogue to drive his story, W.W. Jacobs tells of a mysterious monkey’s paw with the power to grant three wishes to each man who possesses it. Of course, the soldier who gives it to Mr. White warns against his using it, but the Whites cannot resist the temptation to try fate. I’m pretty sure I’d read this before, as it seemed quite familiar. I loved the outcome, and I’d highly suggest this story for the fan of ghost or horror tales. It was also tame enough for myself. Read it online here or listen to an NPR podcast reading of the story by John Lithglow.

I’ll attempt to get my regular short story posts up on Monday, from now on. I’m finding I run out of time by the end of the week! Next week: Stories by M.R. James, Saki, and Katherine Mansfield.

The Eustace Diamonds by Anthony Trollope

Having finished my third epic-length Anthony Trollope novel (the third in the Palliser series), I’m beginning to think I’m not really a fan of Mr. Trollope’s writing style. His novels have wonderfully constructed and carefully developed plots. The characters are well rounded and personable; I feel I know them upon finishing a novel, and therefore it’s fun to see the recurring characters throughout the series. Nevertheless, the novels all seem to miss something spectacular that makes me want to jump up and pull the next one off the shelf.

The Eustace Diamonds (published serially in 1871) concerns different characters from the previous two books in the Palliser series, although Glencora Palliser does have a few cameos in London society (from the first two novels) and Mr and Mrs Grey (from Can You Forgive Her?) appear once. One needn’t have read the first two novels to enjoy this one, as there is no connecting storyline between the three novels.Continue Reading