Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Woman in White - 150 Years On

Welcome to the Books, Time and Silence Ten days of Christmas. Today is Day 1.

Tune in tomorrow, for your chance to win classic book collection delivered in time for Christmas (hopefully!)

150 years ago Charles Dickens's periodical All The Year Round began serialising Wilkie Collins' latest work, The Woman in White. It began on Saturday 26 November 1859 and was to last for 10 months, culminating the following summer, on Saturday 25th August 1860.

It was an exciting time in literature. Dickens had just published A Tale of Two Cities, George Elliot both Adam Bede and The Lifted Veil while in Russia Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy and Turgenev were all in full flow. Most dramatically of all, two days before the first instalment of The Woman in White was came out, Charles Darwin published On The Origins of the Species, a seminal work of scientific study which was to transform our understanding of the world.

It may be impossible to go back to a pre-Darwinian age, but now you can relive that serialisation experience by enjoying The Woman in White as it was written to be read. Paul Lewis and The Wilkie Collins Society are reproducing it part by part, exactly as it was published all those years ago. For the first time in a century and a half, readers can experience the eager gulping, impatient expectancy, and agonising wait after each cliff-hanging ending. If, like me, you've always wondered what it would be like to read the classic mid Victorian novels in the way people first read them, then this is the chance for you.

I've never read The Woman in White, but have been meaning to for a long time. It is often compared to The Quincunx, and anyone who reads this blog will know just how much I love that novel. Yet it's epistolary nature often put me off. I tend to struggle when there are two many narrative voices competing to be heard. It was often the next book on my 'to-read' pile, but when it came to it, something else would make a late running and pinch it on the line, like the cheeky rat in the Chinese New Year story.

But this is perfect. Over the past few months I've been reading at a pace that would embarrass a snail, barely completing a book every month. In such circumstances, I don't know could be better than a book you only have to read once a week, a pace even I can just about manage!

So far, four parts have been published, one a week since November 26th. Things are already hotting up nicely and I can't wait for part 5.

If you fancy joining the hundreds of people around the world discovering anew this classic work, you can sign up by visiting and have the parts emailed to you bright and early every Monday morning. What better way to start the week?



Anonymous said...

Charles Darwin produced "On the Origin of the Species" not Charles Dickens.

Sam Ruddock said...

Well noticed. Thanks.

Though now I've changed it your comment makes no sense!

Charly said...

A great book, I'm thinking about signing up to read it in its original form. I think this is a great way of reading it and a wonderful project, thanks for brining it to my attention. :-)
(But I don't know if I'll have the time right now to read yet another book... ;-) )

I first "read" "The Woman in White" in a wonderful, really wonderfully read, version of (all free, read by volunteers) and loved the story! :-)

Sam Ruddock said...

Thanks for the link, Charly. I know exactly what you mean about not having time. There always seems to be something else to do, doesn't there.

Part 5 of The Woman in White was delivered this morning. Can't wait to start reading it.