Thursday, March 01, 2007


The Classics Book Club of the Marathon County Public Library held their monthly meeting yesterday to discuss the February selection, THE WOMAN IN WHITE. The book inspired a spirited discussion. Wilkie Collins is the author. He introduced the book as a serial in a weekly magazine published by Charles Dickens in 1860. The serialized book also appeared in Harpers Weekly in the USA at the same time. The book was formally published the following year.

THE WOMAN IN WHITE caused quite a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic. It was truly the first novel in the Detective Fiction format published in the English language. Edgar Allen Poe had introduced the world to detective fiction with his short story Murders in the Rue Morgue about 20 years earlier. Harpers kept THE WOMAN IN WHITE in print for 70 years. Thus it was available from the start of the Abraham Lincoln Presidency thru the start of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidency. Various other publishers have issued it since, and it is still available at places like Barnes & Noble.

THE WOMAN IN WHITE was one of the first pieces of literature that was done on the silver screen. The first silent film of the book was shot in 1912. It has been filmed five times for movie theatres and twice for BBC television mini-series broadcasts. In 2004 Andrew Lloyd Webber introduced it as a musical comedy. Webber, of course, had previously provided us with works such as Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and many others.

Some in our book group questioned whether it is a Classic in the terms of War & Peace or Grapes of Wrath being classics. But we generally agreed that the work has certainly stood the test of time, and is a story that people still want to hear told. Check it out. It's a long read.....a little over 500 pages.....but worth the effort.

The visual is from promotional material for Webber's musical.

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Blogger Phyllis said...

"What is a classic?" would be an interesting discussion. For how long does it have to stand the test of time? "War and Peace" is a newcomer in comparison to the "Iliad". Does the content define a classic?

6:53 PM  

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