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Hide and Seek (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 28 May 2009
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Those who, like me, are reading "complete works of..."(Collins is my next author now I've finished Trollope) will press on, the rest should pass on to The Woman in White, or No Name.
I was so disappointed with 'Hide and Seek' - the story of Valentine Blyth and his mysterious deaf and mute adopted daughter - just didn't strike a chord with me at all. The majority of the portion I managed to wade through (before finally admitting defeat), concentrated more on the minutiae of Valentine's daily life than anything else. There were signs of promise in the back story of Mary (aka Madonna, the adopted daughter) but even this never really got going.
Sadly I just gave up on this one in the end as I couldn't foresee it getting interesting. However, I won't be giving up on Collins just yet. I'm sure there's another of his works out there equal to 'The Woman in White' and I'm determined to find it!!
The characters are well defined and loveable. I cannot share the criticism of the other reviewers - some of the gothic plots in Collins's novels beggar description - this one is fairly down to earth.
As with so many of his works - wait for a winter's afternoon, curl up by the fire and enjoy!
'Hide and Seek' is an early novel of Wilkie Collins published in 1854, written before he hit the big time with 'The Woman in White' in 1860.
A painter, Valentine Blyth, visits a circus where he is captivated by one of the performers, a deaf mute girl, whom he adopts. The plot of the novel concerns the girl's parentage and the efforts of one Mat Marksman to discover the whereabouts of the man who abandoned her mother before she was born.
One gets the sense of Collins feeling his way in this early novel and of trying to be different, almost experimental. In the first half, the narrative moves back and forth in time (one wonders whether he was influenced here by 'Wuthering Heights' which had only been published a few years previously) but this only serves to hold up the story. Each of the characters is delineated by an idiosyncrasy: Mr Thorpe the religious zealot, the neurotic Valentine Blyth who seems only to be able to form relationships with women who are in some way disabled (his bedridden wife and the deaf mute girl he adopts), the moody, saturnine Mat Marksman, the ebullient Zack Thorpe.
Certain aspects of the book do stretch credibility. Characters too often happen to be in the right place at the right time, whether it be in a drinking den, a graveyard or near a writing bureau. One of the most intriguing aspects of the book is the relationship between Blyth, his wife and Madonna. Because of the conventions of the time in which he was writing, Collins has to dissemble. Are Blyth and Madonna having a sexual relationship? Is Mrs Blyth aware of this? Or is Blyth asexual?
The strongest parts of this weak novel are the events concerning the discovery of Madonna's parentage. Collins comes into his own here and these sections of the book make for a good read.
Hide and Seek can really only be recommended to Collins' aficionados or to those lovers of the Victorian novel who have read all the top ranking ones and need to move on to those in the second rank.
Originally, the novel was longer than the version available here; Collins cut it considerably for its republication, which is actually an advantage since the first half is really rather dull, not at all a page turner. Of course, there are some promising signs of things to come: for example, an effectively suspenseful scene where Madonna, who is afraid of the dark, is alone at dead of night when an intruder blows out her candle flame. I liked the descriptions of the artistic household of Valentine Blyth; and there are some good comic set-pieces. But also, rather tediously, there is quite a lot of female and familial piety, which Collins assumes will interest and absorb the reader much more than it does.
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