A month ago, when we first decided to read the book, we went to watch the play based on the novel. We all enjoyed the play enormously (blog on Oct. 10). Now that we’ve finished reading the novel, we have the pleasure of comparing the two and exploring deeper into the narrative.
Our reading group of seven is a perfect number—small enough to sit around one table and large enough to have different perspectives. It has always been a joy discussing books we’ve read together.
I enjoyed the novel, despite having known the plot from the play; and my favorite characters in the book are Marian and Count Fosco—both witty, strong, and smart. Even though Fosco was a villain, one could not help from being charmed by his good manners, ability to engage his listeners, and the tenderness in a man who could be ruthless. Everyone in my group resonated with me, and by hearing their view, I also gained a better understanding of the setting in the Victorian period and why, intelligent and strong as Marian was, the best outcome for her might be what the author set her to be—living with her sister, Laura, and caring for her child vs. having a life of her own.
In many ways, it was amazing that Collins created such a strong woman character, despite having Marian diminish herself because she was so helpless at times as woman.
As a “sensation novel” in a detective genre, the plot was so meticulously constructed that it felt almost too perfect. The narrative from the perspective of different characters, an innovation at the time, still provide joy for a reader to get into the head of the perspective narrator, and the voice of each person, from the protagonist Marian, Walter Hartright, to the servants, each came alive, and the tune and language in line with their education and social status. Quite amazing.
I neglected to notice that the only key character who didn’t have a narration in the novel was Laura, the beautiful young woman that Hartright fell in love with head over heals, and eventually, like in a Hollywood movie, married.
“The dumb blond,” one referred her in our group.
“I’m so glad she didn’t have a narrative in the book,” another commented.
We all laughed.
The book is well written, entertaining and meticulously constructed. The play certainly did the justice to the novel, though the ending was a bit different.
Worth checking it out if you haven’t read it.
Jian Ping, author of Mulberry Child: A Memoir of China, which has been developed into an award-winning feature-length documentary by Susan Morgan Cooper and is narrated by Jacqueline Bisset. Visit www.mulberrychildmovie.com for more information.