Poor Miss Finch by Wilkie Collins (brief thoughts)

Ah, my Wilkie! It is so nice to come back to your familiar voice!

Except no two narrators in Wilkie Collins’ novels have the same voice. It is one of Collins’ masterpieces of talent that he creates unforgettable narrators with personality and voice. His novels are such a delightful comfort read for me because they are so full of life and personality. I love a good Victorian novel, and Wilkie Collins’ sensation novels are a perfect escape.

In Poor Miss Finch, the narrator is Madame Protolungo, a widowed French woman, true to the memory of her Republican husband. She is living in England and as the novel begins, she is beginning new employment as a lady’s companion to a wealthy young woman who happens to be blind. Lucilla Finch is the daughter of the rector of Dimchurch, but due to complicated circumstances she lives independently from her father with her own fortune. When she falls in love with a young man named Oscar and a surgery is discovered that may help her regain her sight, she wants to under go the surgery at any cost so she can see her adored lover. But when Oscar’s identical twin brother Nugent arrives in Dimchurch, Lucilla’s situation is confused with humorous and sensational (of course) results!

Wilkie Collins introduces a number of fascinating and memorable characters in Poor Miss Finch: the conceited Rector, the milky mother (Mrs. Finch) of nearly a dozen youngsters, Madame Prolungo, Herr Grosse the optician, and more. Further, he creates a love triangle and a situation that is page-turning. I’ve been reading lots of more serious nonfiction lately, so reading a book full of sensational characters, situations, and exaggerations was just what I needed. Although I could look at it more deeply (think of the significance of Dimchurch versus the seaside in terms of Lucilla’s vision, for one obvious example), I chose to read this just for fun. And it was!

Poor Miss Finch, while possibly not as complex as Armadale or The Woman in White, is still a Wilkie Collins classic with delightful characters and a fun plot. I am glad I read it this fall!

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

Part ghost story and part mystery, The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (published 2006) captures the power of stories and books in a lonely life.  Amateur biographer Margret Lea is invited to write the story of Vita Winter, aging popular writer with more than fifty published works to her name. Although the two women are very different and begin as strangers, as the novel progresses and their friendship grows, their stories come together. They have much  more in common than they realized, and it all goes back to the universal power of stories.

It was a perfect read for a windy, rainy fall evening.Continue Reading