Friday, May 03, 2013

The Law and the Lady (Book Review)

Author: Wilkie Collins
Year: 1875
Genre: Mystery/Classics

Reading Level: Adult

Plot Summary: Valeria is a brand-new bride when she accidentally uncovers a dreadful secret in her new husband's past.  Too ashamed to live with her knowing she is aware of his history, her husband leaves her.  Determined to recover her marriage, Valeria begins her own investigation into the past, but what she finds there may do more harm than good.

Red Flags: None

My Rating: B
This book was a nice change of pace, as it's been a while since I read a classic.  I wish I could say this was more satisfying than it was, but still, I generally enjoyed it.  The first half was definitely my favorite part--it was compelling and mysterious.  The second half started to drag, partly because I figured things out so far ahead of the characters (it would be interesting to know if many contemporary readers solved the mystery early or if this is just a byproduct of living in the age of Law & Order).   

There were a lot of interesting elements to this book, as well as a few rather dull ones.  Dexter in particular was so different and, really, quite strange (as was Ariel).  It's also unusual to read a mystery novel from a female protagonist's perspective.  Valeria was not the most exciting character, but I always hoped the best for her and was invested in her self-declared mission. I wouldn't call Wilkie Collins a masterful writer, but he did create a couple of very memorable (and rather tragic) characters.

Overall, there were some very unique elements to this book, especially in the characters, and the mystery was a compelling one.  I wish the second half had kept up the intensity of the first, but despite my quibbles, it was a worthwhile read.

Memorable lines:
"It shared the fate of most warnings. It only made me more and more eager to have my own way."--ch. 23

"My brains are boiling in my head."--ch. 24

"There is the whole difference between the mental constitution of the sexes, which no legislation will ever alter as long as the world lasts! What does it matter? Women are infinitely superior to men in the moral qualities which are the true adornments of humanity. Be content—oh, my mistaken sisters, be content with that!"--ch. 29

"And so it ended! Not as I thought it would end; not perhaps as you thought it would end. What do we know of our own lives? What do we know of the fulfillment of our dearest wishes? God knows—and that is best."--ch. 50

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