Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Captain's Log: In the Shadow of the Volcano of Death, The Leaky Dinghy Presents The Great Read

As insufferably cold temperatures continue to plague our dingy Chesapeake hailing port, this crew has abandoned the frigid mid-atlantic in favor of the Leaky Fleet's Caribbean headquarters. The situation at Caribbean HQ is becoming tenuous, however. The Christmas Winds have abandoned us, seriously jeopardizing our kite-surfing efforts, and volcanic activity in nearby Montserrat has added a haze to the air which, the Discovery Channel informs me, prophesies the IMPENDING DESTRUCTION OF ALL LIFE FORMS ON EARTH.

So. In order to distract myself from our imminent demise (and as long as the free wireless at Jumbie's Bar holds out) I will be participating in Bookshelves of Doom's Great Read of The White Lady by Wilkie Collins.

Note: An extensive search of nearby bookswaps yielded only a musty copy of Trojan Gold (always worth a re-read) and a celebrity sighting of Ginger Spice but, fortunately, The White Lady can be found online--for free! Just google.

The First Epoque

Despite kicking off with an introduction that reads like it was copied out of a 1L Civil Procedure casebook, The White Lady quickly turns into a hearty snack of gothic melodrama and snark. (The gothic melodrama was implied by the title, but the snark was an unexpected treat.) Our delightfully snarky narrator is drawing instructor Walter Hartright, and he has bad taste in both friends and sisters. Lucky for us, he's not shy about snarking on either. Professor Pesca (the friend) is flamboyant, foolish and (as is often the case with foolish, flamboyant people in British novels) foreign. The sister, Sarah, is humorless and intolerant (as is often the case with sisters, just ask Chris the Cabin Boy.) Only mommy is perfect. Typical. But, really, who cares when you're getting paragraphs like this one?

"I go back into my life, and I address myself to the noblest of created beings," continued Pesca, vehemently apostrophising my unworthy self over the top rail of the chair. "Who found me dead at the bottom of the sea (through Cramp); and who pulled me up to the top; and what did I say when I got into my own life and my own clothes again?"

Gotta watch those cramps. Oh, and then the gothic melodrama arrives in the form of a mysterious white lady. Dressed in white, that is, and all alone on the road to London, by herself, in the middle of the night. Good stuff. And! She seems to to have escaped from an insane asylum, where she may or may not have been falsely imprisoned. C'mon, you know you want to read this book!

Anyway, off goes our talented you narrator to the country, where he snarks on his employer for being effeminate and fussy and describes the governess thusly:

"Starting from this point of view, it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the good lady suffered the consequences of a vegetable preoccupation in the mind of the Mother of us all."

Also, one of his charges is homely (but has a great body and personality), the other is beautiful (thought not really, when you actually examine her face with the critical eye of an artist) and the beautiful one bears a striking resemblance to the mysterious white lady. And there's a mysterious past connection between the two girls. Oh, and it sounds like Walter and beautiful girl are still acquainted--possibly 2gether 4ever?

This book is awesome.


Anonymous said...

This book is awesome! I loved this line in your post: "and then the gothic melodrama arrives in the form of a mysterious white lady". I can't remember all the interconnection between the ladies, as I read it twenty years ago, but it's so fun to read again! I'm looking forward to the journey with you and others on The Big Read V.

Anonymous said...

The sister IS awful! I'm hoping she won't show up again. The snark, as you pointed out, is fabulous. :)

Leila said...

Best. Recap. Ever. I don't know how anyone could resist the book after reading this post!

I'm kind of hoping the sister will show up again, if only because she is so very awful! Can you imagine Marion's reaction to her? Hee!

Anonymous said...

Hehe - a scene with Marian and Sarah would be AWESOME! :)

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