First one down! I choose The Woman in White for my Classic Detective Novel Selection. This was probably the classic I was most anxious to start and I did as soon as the clock struck midnight. Yes, I was literally reading this at 12:30 am Jan 1, 2016! I love the mystery genre and had been wanting to read it for a while. Collins did not disappoint. This is right up there with The Moonstone.
In terms of mystery, it isn't quite as strong as The Moonstone. I really had no idea how that one would play out until the very end. But there was a lot to love in this one too - the characters for starters. And the differing viewpoints. Multiple narrators is a technique I often shudder at because its so often done just to provide information for the reader that would be impossible otherwise. And if you're not going to do it right, just let your main narrator overhear a conversation or find a page of a diary or something, please. But here, while we do get different information from each viewpoint we also, and I'd say even more importantly, we really get a feel for each character. Each section is clearly marked with who is doing the writing but I honestly think you could easily figure who was narrating even if someone went through and marked it out with a sharpie. I'm not sure who would do such a thing, maybe a little brother, but my point is, each character is fully fleshed out from our loving and loyal hero to the gullible housekeeper and even the narcissistic uncle, whose nerves would rival even Mrs. Bennet's.
And when I compared the mystery aspect to The Moonstone, I didn't mean to imply it wasn't good. It isn't quite the quintessential mystery that The Moonstone is, which makes sense seeing as this was writing first and The Moonstone is considered to be the first detective novel in the English language. Even so, it's obvious Collins was getting ready to create that genre. Our main character Hartright does a pretty admirable job in his role as amateur detective and this book contains more sleuthing than some stories with a professional often do. I mean, he actually goes places and looks for information!
If I had one negative to say, its that he made my favorite female character Marian, really ugly. Why? I mean, she doesn't have to be drop dead gorgeous but must she be repulsive? Either way, she's a great character. A great character for a great book. I feel like I'm gushing but considering I read this 800 page (or so? I read it on a kindle so I'm not quite sure but its long) book in about 5 days, the numbers gush for themselves. And now that I've read several of his works, I can be confident in saying Wilkie Collins is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.
For more about the Back to the Classics Challenge, head over to Books and Chocolate. It's a great place to find great old books to read!