Sunday, December 19, 2010

Armadale by Wilkie Collins - Book Club Review

At long last after the weeks of snow, Christmas mayhem and general interruptions of life, we have our book club reviews of ARMADALE, or Armawhale, or even The Whale as it became affectionately known.   For everyone, it seems to have been a journey that was well worth making, so really looking forward to next month's gem of 'In the Skin of the Lion' by Michael Ondaatje. 
See link @ the bottom of post for a flavour of what's to come.

 - A great meandering read, Armadale is the kind of book you can curl up on the couch with. Wilkie Collins is often overshadowed by his contemporaries which is a shame as he truly is the godfather of mystery writing.

 - Wilkie Collins portrayed his two principal male characters so well I
wonder if they were two sides of himself.  The two men, together his
superbly dysfunctional heroine Miss Gwilt, form a riveting triangle.
The story was so modern it was as if only the setting was Victorian. I
was reading psychiatrist John Bowlby's (1907-1991) Attachment Theory
at the same time.  He categorises three types of defensive strategies
that children develop as a result of insecure attachment to
parent/carer. Collins chararacters superbly illustrate all three.
They are Anxious or Ambivalent Attached (the tortured preoccupied
Midwinter); Avoidant Attached (the persistently positive Armadale) and
Disorganised Attached (the evil Gwilt). The last is a response to
consistently inadequate care - the individual may be unable to
maintain a consistent strategy for engaging in attachment.  This is
unforgettably illustrated by Miss Gwilt - particularly in her roller
coaster feelings for Midwinter.  It's so much more fun to read about
all this in a novel. 

 - At nearly 700 pages, Armadale is a whopper.  It demands your time and rewards you with such high entertainment that the pages flick over faster than you imagined possible.  Wilkie Collins is unique because he is a master of both plot and character.  Any author who unleashes his imagination the way Collins did when he devised this plot, deserves our everlasting respect. Never have I encountered so many twists and turns and been hooked right to the deadly end.  His characters will live and breathe with me for many a long day, most memorably the flame haired seductress,  Lydia Gwilt whose wickedness itself charms.  I defy anyone to read Armadale and not to love it.

-  Big enough to clean snow off your windscreen,  small enough to find a place in your heart.  This book is a bit of work to read, being at a different pace to the norm, yet you feel in the end as if it was possibly worth it.

- Armadale is an incredibly modern version of the Victorian novel. It is intricate, has brilliantly complex characters, and amazing set pieces. Lydia Gwilt is a particularly fascinating character. All in all it deserves to be far better known and is, for my money, a much better read than 'The Moonstone.'

 - A wonderful book to read, and one that seduces you into a world, that is both captivating through its exaggerated plot and intriguing characters, and delightful  by way of the utter sensationalism, that must have  given the writer, and the reader immeasurable pleasure in its day.  Despite its Victorian origin, it holds its own in the modern world, which is an indictment of the quality of the work, and the eternal longevity of a great story.

- Thank you Mr Collins - It's definitely 'The Woman in White' for Christmas. Wonderful to discover a writer of such extraordinary value that was hidden to me.  Had it not been for the recommendation of the book club, I could have missed out on an absolute gem!


  1. Interesting to read the comments. It' been on my possible list for sometime. Time I promoted it to my definite!

  2. Put it in your christmas stocking! Guarantee you will enjoy it.

  3. Nice to see all the opinions all together, it gives you a good profile of the general response. It's nice to see people mostly liked it.


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