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Tag Archives: Victorian

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Happy Halloween everybody!  I hope you are having a fun and safe holiday.  I am waiting for trick-or-treaters and trying to convince Reeses that Halloween costumes are not chew toys.

I really enjoyed The Woman in White!  It’s been a while since I read anything Victorian, plus it is really suspenseful, so it was perfect for Halloween reading.  The Woman in White is sometimes described as one of the first mystery novels.  Personally, it reminded me less of a traditional mystery and more of a Hitchcock movie.  Instead of trying to figure out “whodunnit,” the building tension and suspense of the story had me physically leaning towards the book, anxious to find out what would happen next.

Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

There are quite a few characters in this book, all delightfully different.  The first narrator is Walter Hartright, a drawing teacher who meets a mysterious woman dressed in white late at night on the road to London.  His two pupils are half-sisters Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie, who happens to look almost exactly like the mysterious woman.  Together Miss Halcombe and Mr. Hartright discover that the mysterious woman is Anne Catherick, a woman whose past connects her both to the Fairlie family and Sir Percival Glyde, Laura Fairlie’s fiance.  In the second half of the book, we meet the Count and Countess Fosco.  Count Fosco is both melodramatic and menacing.  The variety of these characters makes the book a lot of fun.

If you’ve read a Victorian novel before, you might remember that they tend to be long.  Many of them were originally published chapter by chapter in magazines, and The Woman in White is no exception.  In my opinion, it’s one of the best examples of this genre I have read.  Sometimes these books can get a little repetitive, because the writer knew it had been awhile since the last chapter.  Because this novel is told from several viewpoints, it felt pretty fast paced to me.  I also was really impressed by the characters.  Although Count Fosco and Laura Fairlie in particular resemble familiar, melodramatic Victorian characters (think of Lucy in A Tale of Two Cities), they don’t take away from the drama of the story.  It is really very well-written.  I give this book four and a half stars, and I’ll be adding it to my list of great Halloween books!  ★★★★1/2

Little me and little Becca dressed up for Halloween

Little me and little Becca dressed up for Halloween

photo credit: Simon_K via photopin cc

Soulless by Gail Carriger

Hello again.  It’s Elizabeth.  I’m finally finished with school and moving.  Now I can finally share my review of Soulless, the first book in Gail Carriger’s Parasol Protectorate series.

When I finish midterms or finals, I like to recover with a nice book.  Since my head is usually aching from all of the nonfiction I have crammed into it over the last few weeks, I like to choose something light to read.  On the other hand, since I’ve just crammed that much knowledge into my head, a dumbed-down read is definitely not going to cut it.  Recently, I’ve been turning to a few historical fiction authors for books that are a great mix of light entertainment and interesting historical detail.

My newest discovery is Gail Carriger.  I first heard about her Parasol Protectorate series when Mur Lafferty interviewed her for the “I Should Be Writing” podcast a few years ago, and I’ve been meaning to read her book ever since.  I finally read the first book this summer, right after finishing my Russian midterms.  These books are slightly different than the historical novels I usually read, since they include elements of urban fantasy, and steampunk.  I thought it made for a fun change!

The heroine of the novel is Alexia Tarabotti, a Victorian-era spinster with a supernatural secret: she does not have a soul.  This gives her the ability to neutralize supernatural beings; physical contact with her makes them temporarily human again.  This secret is known only to a few people in the British government, since Alexia’s abilities can make her a threat to vampires and werewolves, as well as an object of interest to scientists.

One of those people is Lord Conall Maccon, Earl of Woolsey, Alpha of the London werewolf pack, and head of the Bureau of Unnatural Registry.  Alexia would like to work for BUR, but her gender and social standing prevent this.  Alexia and Lord Maccon have a history of not getting along, but a common agenda forces them to work together, and soon the sparks are flying.

Ms. Carriger has done an excellent job with her characters, and I really enjoyed the humor in her books.  What stands out the most is the setting, or world, that her novels take place in.  She has successfully mixed several different styles to create a world that is very original and enjoyable.  I would recommend this book to someone who is looking for something a little different.  If you like historical fiction or mysteries, this will be a fun book to try.  If you are a fan of British period dramas on the BBC or steampunk, then I am sure you will love this novel.  I am giving this novel four stars, because I am looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

★★★★