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Susannah B (Susie B)
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The Maiden Dinosaur
The Maiden Dinosaur
by Janet McNeill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.00

5.0 out of 5 stars A Perceptive and Unflinching Look at Life, 7 Dec. 2016
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This review is from: The Maiden Dinosaur (Paperback)
First published in 1964 and recently republished in this attractively presented paperback, Janet McNeill's 'The Maiden Dinosaur' is set in Dublin and focuses on a group of friends, several of whom were at school together more than thirty years before and who have kept in close touch with one another over the years. The main protagonist, Sarah Vincent, is a school teacher whose rambling old family home, Thronehill, has been converted into flats, one of which is occupied by her much-loved friend, Helen, a beautiful, but damaged and ageing divorcee, whose only child was killed in an accident. Living in another of the flats on the ground floor and occupying the space of Sarah's parents' old drawing room, is Addie, a 'lady cook', married to the elderly and ailing Gerald; and in the old servants' quarters over the stables, lives Felicity, the daughter of Sarah's friend Florence, and her husband, Justin, and their baby son. On the third Wednesday of every month, Sarah and her old school chums meet up for afternoon tea and, in this way, the friends (and the reader) is able to catch up on what has happened in their lives in the intervening period. At the meeting, in addition to the aforementioned Addie, we meet fund-raiser Florence, who had been "something of a nonentity" at school but who is now a successful public figure; Mary, a contented wife, mother and grandmother, whose "successful conspiracy with life" allows her to ignore its more unpleasant realities; Enid, who keeps house for her father and two elderly and mildly dotty uncles; and Joyce, the youngest of the group, who is married to her (deceased) sister's ex-husband, Maurice (Sarah's cousin), and expecting her first baby. Not present at the meeting is Kitty, suffering from une crise de nerfs, whose husband, George, is involved in an intimate relationship with Helen - a relationship of which Sarah is aware, but unsure of the depth of George's feelings for her fragile and much-loved friend…

During the course of this brief, but beautifully written novel, Janet McNeill shows how Sarah and her friends attempt to cope with the trials and tribulations of the onset of middle age and of all its attendant challenges, disappointments and disillusionments - however, this is not quite as sombre as this might suggest, for the author also looks at some of the absurdities of mid-life and of how some of her characters use their past experiences to enable them to put certain events into perspective and to move on with their lives. There is some excellent writing here - the author's descriptions of Sarah's reminiscences of living with her parents at Thronehill and of her imaginings that they are still present in the house, are beautifully accomplished, as is her depiction of Helen's life, where she shows Helen struggling against the onset of middle-age, trying to keep herself looking beautiful for her gentlemen friends. And it is not just the middle-aged characters in her story that Ms McNeill portrays well - her depiction of Felicity's life as a young mother, trying to cope with the demands of a baby and a slightly resentful husband, is also carried out well. This is a perceptive and unflinching look at life from a sharply observant writer and a novel that is going straight back into one of my bookcases to experience again in the future. I can also recommend the author's: Tea at Four O'Clock (Virago Modern Classics) which is another perceptive and psychologically acute story.

5 Stars.


Middlemarch (Oxford World's Classics)
Middlemarch (Oxford World's Classics)
by George Eliot
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A Rewarding Read, 5 Dec. 2016
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Described by Virginia Woolf as "that magnificent book which, with all its imperfections, is one of the few English novels written for grown-up people", George Eliot's 'Middlemarch' focuses on the beautiful and intelligent Dorothea Brooke, who is passionate about helping others and making something of her life. Keen to dedicate herself to someone she considers to be doing great work in the world, she accepts a marriage proposal from an ageing, didactic academic, the Reverend Edward Casaubon, whom she mistakenly thinks is about to produce his magnum opus 'The Key to all Mythologies' and hopes that she will be able to help him with his work. Casaubon, however, is a selfish and humourless pedant, who doesn't appreciate his wife, and whose research is now out of date, a fact that is mentioned in passing to Dorothea by Will Ladislaw, Casaubon's much younger artist cousin, who despite trying to control his feelings, finds himself falling in love with Dorothea - an attraction that does not escape the notice of the jealous and embittered Casaubon. And whilst Casaubon makes plans to thwart what he erroneously thinks are his young cousin's designs on his wife, we read of Doctor Lydgate, a young, ambitious doctor, keen to make scientific discoveries in the field of medicine, whose ambitions are frustrated when he marries the very pretty, but shallow and spendthrift Rosamund, and soon finds himself mired in debt; we also meet Rosamund's brother, the good-natured, but feckless Fred Vincy, who is in love with the admirable, no-nonsense Mary Garth (who, in some ways, is as much of a heroine as Dorothea) who refuses to accept Fred's proposal until he settles down and makes something of himself; and then there is the banker Mr Bulstrode - who, through his past misdemeanours, finds himself being blackmailed by the unsavoury Mr Raffles. There are, of course, many other characters and several subplots to keep the reader interested throughout the length of this marvellous 800+ page novel, but I shall leave the discovery of these for those who have yet to read it.

Originally published in serial form during 1871-72 (although set some forty years before that date) George Eliot's 'Middlemarch' is widely regarded as the author's masterpiece, and despite acknowledging the fact that this novel does have its minor flaws (as mentioned by certain well-regarded critics), I found this an involving and entertaining story which looks at marriage and misconceptions, status and social acceptance, aspirations and disappointments - and a whole lot more. I first read this novel many years ago and with this rereading feel I've derived much more from it and would certainly recommend the book to others - however, for busy people who might find the length of the novel a little daunting, do try the audio version: Middlemarch (available from Audible through Amazon) which you can listen to whilst getting on with other things and which is narrated by the actress Juliet Stevenson, whose well-modulated tones make this audio download a pleasure to listen to.

5 Stars.


Leaving Home (Vintage Contemporaries)
Leaving Home (Vintage Contemporaries)
by Anita Brookner
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Leaving Home, 2 Dec. 2016
In Anita Brookner's 'Leaving Home' we meet Emma Roberts, a young woman in her mid-twenties, who lives in London with her frail, widowed mother. Eager to escape the quiet, cloistered existence favoured by her mother, and keen to experience a certain kind of independence, Emma is nevertheless self-aware enough to realize that whilst part of her yearns for what she does not have, another part of her fears it. However, when she is awarded a scholarship and the option arises for her to study seventeenth and eighteenth century garden design in France, Emma takes the opportunity to leave her mother's "strange constraints" behind her and uses the scholarship as a valuable pretext to secure her liberty. Once in Paris, Emma settles into quite a different way of life as she comes to know and love the city; she also begins to make tentative friendships - firstly with the sophisticated and worldly-wise Francoise Desnoyers, whom she meets in the library, and secondly with Michael, a quiet and reserved young writer she meets at the hotel where she rents a room. When she is not researching for her dissertation, Emma spends time with Michael going for long evening or Sunday afternoon walks, and when she is not with Michael she meets up with Francoise, whose life is decidedly more complex and interesting than Emma's; Emma is also invited to Francoise's mother's grand, if somewhat dilapidated, ancestral home - where, despite feeling out of her depth, Emma is impressed by the patrician Madame Desnoyers and fascinated by how different Francoise's family life is to that of her own. But is Francoise a true friend to Emma or is she using Emma for her own purposes? And when Emma is back in London on a visit and is introduced to Philip Hudson, a middle-aged surgeon separated from his beautiful wife, and who appears to show an interest in Emma, she begins to wonder whether her life is about to move in a new direction - but does Philip, like Francoise, have an agenda of his own?

As always with Anita Brookner, this is yet another exquisitely written and beautifully described story of a life not lived to the full. I have read in interviews with the author where she comments that she writes the same book over and over again and, with a few exceptions, in some ways this is pretty much true - although not entirely. It is true that Ms Brookner's heroines are usually middle-class, comfortably-off, well-educated, reticent and unassuming women who often inhabit similar interior landscapes and whose lives sadly do not turn out the way they would have hoped them to - in fact, having read several of Ms Brookner's novels, I have given up wishing for a happy ending for her protagonists. That is not to say that I do not enjoy her books, because I do - her perceptive analyses of her characters' inner lives and her unrelenting honesty about the human condition make Ms Brookner's novels very interesting and involving to read and, as commented previously, her prose is sublime. Most probably not one I would recommended for those looking for an undemanding and uplifting downtime read, but for those who enjoy beautifully written, psychologically astute stories, then this could be one for you.

4 Stars.


Wives and Daughters
Wives and Daughters
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and Enjoyable, 29 Nov. 2016
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Elizabeth Gaskell's final (and not quite finished) novel 'Wives and Daughters' is set during the mid-nineteenth century in the village of Hollingford in the Midlands, and focuses on the motherless Molly, who enjoys a close relationship with her gruff, but loving father, Doctor Gibson. When Molly is away staying with a friend of her father's, Squire Hamley and his delicate invalid wife - both of whom become very fond of the very biddable and pretty Molly - Doctor Gibson makes the decision to remarry, thinking his daughter needs the influence of woman in her life. Enter ex-governess and widow Mrs Kirkpatrick, an attractive, but rather snobbish and self-centred woman, whose presence Molly initially finds difficult to accept. However, despite her stepmother's faults and her insensitivity to the finer feelings of those around her, the new Mrs Gibson is not unkind to Molly, and when Mrs Gibson's daughter, Cynthia, arrives home from school, Molly and her stepsister, who are of a similar age, become very close to one another - a relationship which more than makes up for the lack of true empathy between Molly and her stepmother. The lovely Cynthia, however, is hiding a secret, and soon the loyal and loving Molly becomes caught up in Cynthia's web of duplicity and dissimulation - a situation that potentially could result in Molly losing her reputation, but to say more might spoil the novel for those who have yet to read it, so I will leave the remainder of the story - and there is a lot more than I have revealed in this review - for prospective readers to discover for themselves.

First published in the 1860s and, as previously commented, not quite (but almost) finished, this is a very engaging story which follows the journey of two young girls towards womanhood under the watchful eye of the inhabitants of Hollingford and, as it does so, looks at the role of women in Victorian England - and more besides. I first read this novel many years ago and have been meaning to reread it for some time - however with so many unread books on my bookshelves, I find it difficult to justify the time spent on revisiting books. The solution presented itself in the form of listening to the Audible audio download version, and for this rereading I decided to opt for the abridged version, very ably narrated by Patience Tomlinson (whose wide variety of voices used for the various characters was really rather impressive). I have to confess that I used to be a little disparaging about abridged versions of novels, feeling that if a book is worth reading then it's worth reading in its entirety - however, I've now revised my opinion of audio abridgements (providing they are not too heavily abridged) as I do feel there is a place for them, especially for revisiting books. It is true that if you want the whole experience of the novel and all of the additional little subplots, then you really need to listen to or read the full-length version - and, having read the unabridged novel I can certainly say it is worth the time spent on it - but if, like me, you have read this novel before and just want to revisit it, or if you really haven't the time at the moment to embark on a novel with seven hundred or so pages, then this abridged audio version, which gives a real flavour of this very enjoyable story, is a good one to opt for.

5 Stars.


The Gate of Angels
The Gate of Angels
by Penelope Fitzgerald
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars An Unusual and Entertaining Novel, 29 Nov. 2016
This review is from: The Gate of Angels (Paperback)
Penelope Fitzgerald's Booker Prize shortlisted 'The Gate of Angels' is set shortly before the First World War in Cambridge and London. In Cambridge in 1912, we meet Fred(erick) Fairly, a lecturer in practical physics and a Junior Fellow at St Angelicus (a fictional Cambridge college), who is the son of a rector and who has abandoned religion in the face of the 'observable truths' of his profession. Out bicycling one evening at dusk, Fred is involved in an accident with another cyclist, a young woman named Daisy Saunders, and both of them are knocked unconscious by the impact. An academic, Mr Wrayburn, and his wife, who live nearby, come to their assistance and seeing the wedding ring on the young woman's finger, assume Fred and Daisy are married and arrange for them to be carried back to the Wrayburn's home where they put the pair of them in the same bed to recover.

When Fred regains consciousness, he is surprised to find himself in the same bed as an unknown woman, especially when as a fellow of St Angelicus, he is supposed to remain celibate. When he realizes what has actually happened, and takes in Daisy's attractive appearance and her wealth of reddish brown hair, he thinks to himself "My God, what luck", but before he can become properly acquainted with Daisy, she disappears back to her London home, leaving a smitten Fred unable to contact her. Daisy, we soon learn, is not actually married - the wedding ring is just to keep potential 'gropers' at arm's length on public transport - she is an unmarried, working-class woman training to be a nurse and one whose straight-talking and independence of mind and spirit attract others to her. But will Fred, whose encounter with Daisy sets him thinking more deeply about what he wants out of life, be able to find Daisy again? And if he does, how will she respond?

This slender novel is, like Penelope Fitzgerald's other novels, a masterpiece in brevity - yet even though the author writes with an economy of prose, her prose is so beautifully wrought that she is able to deftly conjure up the characters and their situations for her readers, and although there may be much that we do not know about these people, what we are able to experience is the essence of their lives. An unusual, amusing and entertaining story - which, amongst other themes, briefly meditates on the conflicts between science and religion - this novel is, at it succinctly says on the cover of my copy: "A love story, a ghost story and a philosophical inquiry, beautifully evocative of time and place. A triumph." I couldn't have put it better myself.

4 Stars.


The Best of Friends
The Best of Friends
by Joanna Trollope
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars An Interesting and Undemanding Weekend Read, 27 Nov. 2016
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This review is from: The Best of Friends (Hardcover)
Gina and Laurence live in the town of Whittingbourne and are best friends; they met at school in the 1960s and have remained close throughout their adult lives enjoying a loving but platonic relationship. Now in their mid-forties, Laurence is married to the practical and organised Hilary, they have three teenaged sons, and together they run a small country hotel called The Bee House; Gina, mother to the sixteen-year-old Sophy and a part-time teacher of piano and French, is married to the rather pretentious Fergus, an art-dealer (who changed his name from the more ordinary Leslie) and a very exacting individual who likes things his own way - even down to the smallest detail of the furnishings and fittings of the elegant period town house the three of them live in. When Fergus comes to the decision that he has been living a lie for the last few years, he decides the time has come for him to leave Gina and begin a whole new life in London - a decision that not only leaves Gina stunned and wounded, but also has a much more significant impact on his daughter than he imagined. Gina finds refuge at The Bee House, turning to Laurence and Hilary for support and sympathy, but when a busy and distracted Hilary loses patience with Gina (who Hilary thinks is wallowing in self-pity) Laurence feels torn between his wife and his oldest friend. And when Gina's mother, the resourceful and no-nonsense Vi (who brought Gina up single-handedly) doesn't offer her the sympathy and understanding Gina feels is owed to her, she finds herself relying even more on the loyal and seemingly dependable Laurence. But Laurence isn't quite as loyal or dependable as either Gina or Hilary think and before long a situation arises which has a significant and potentially devastating effect on everyone around them.

As always with Joanna Trollope, this is a very readable and relevant story of marriage, friendship and of family dynamics, but I do have to say that apart from Sophy and Vi(whose relationship with her gentleman friend, Dan, was sensitively portrayed) and perhaps Hilary, I found it difficult to feel any real connection with or sympathy for the other characters in this story. Laurence appeared to be a rather weak and wishy-washy person, who naively underestimated the effect his actions would have on his family; Gina appeared to be a rather needy, self-centred individual - who, in her pain and confusion, seemed to feel she was owed happiness wherever she could find it, without stopping to consider how her chance at happiness was being built on the unhappiness of others; and Fergus - who could have been a more interesting protagonist than he was - was not quite sufficiently developed as a character and we do not learn enough about his reasons for leaving his family or about his choice of partner for his new life - but I cannot explain further without revealing too much information for those who have yet to read the novel. However, all of that said and, as commented at the beginning of this paragraph, I always find Ms Trollope's novels readable and relevant and although I did not enjoy this book as much as the author's 'The Choir'; 'The Rector's Wife' or a 'A Spanish Lover', it certainly kept me engaged throughout the length of the story and I found it worked well as an interesting and undemanding weekend read.

3 Stars.


Look At Me
Look At Me
by Anita Brookner
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Look at Me, 25 Nov. 2016
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This review is from: Look At Me (Paperback)
Frances Hinton - who, she tells us, does not like to be called Fanny - is a quiet and unassuming young woman who works in a medical library dedicated to the study of problems of human behaviour. In charge of pictorial material, Frances works with her friend, Olivia, sending off for photographs to museums and galleries - work, she tells the reader, which is extremely interesting, in a hopeless sort of way. Part of Frances's job entails her looking after visitors who come to the library to consult the archives - two of whom are Mrs Halloran: "a wild-looking lady with a misleading air of authority who claims to be in touch with the other side" and Dr Simek, an extremely reticent Czech (or perhaps, Pole) who is working on the treatment of melancholia - both of whom visit the library every day - largely, Frances suspects, because they are lonely and because the library is so well heated. Into the library one day arrives Dr Nick Fraser with his striking wife, Alix, who seems to take a liking to Frances and invites her to supper. Frances, whose parents are no longer alive, leads a financially comfortable, but rather solitary life and is delighted to be taken up by the Frasers, whose slightly bohemian lifestyle is fascinating to the inexperienced young woman. And when Nick's colleague, the distinguished James Anstey, is introduced to Frances and appears to show an interest her, she begins to feel that a new and more exciting life might just be within her reach. However, her tentative plans for the future look as if they are in jeopardy when the sparkling but self-centred Alix draws James ever more closely into her orbit, and suddenly Frances finds herself quite out of her depth, both socially and romantically.

First published in 1983, Anita Brookner's 'Look at Me' is an exquisitely written and very civilized story of a woman whose life doesn't turn out quite the way she had hoped it would. I have mentioned before in reviews of mine for Anita Brookner's novels that her stories often tread a similar path - the financially secure, solitary and seemingly unassuming heroine; the quiet and undemanding job; the attractive, but duplicitous male; the oppressive feeling of loneliness; the quiet tragedy of a life not lived to the full - and, in consequence, her novels are often rather sobering reading experiences, especially as she always writes about the human condition with such unsparing and incisive honesty. And it is not only the main characters' lives which come under close scrutiny from Ms Brookner's sharp eye - the lonely and unfulfilled lives of library visitors Mrs Halloran and Dr Simek are succinctly but acutely portrayed also. That said, the sheer beauty of the author's prose and her perceptive analyses of her characters' inner lives, always draw me into her stories and this book, like the others I have read from Ms Brookner, kept me entertained and totally involved from start to finish.

4 Stars.


Familiar Passions (VMC)
Familiar Passions (VMC)
by Nina Bawden
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.00

4.0 out of 5 stars 'Before James told his wife that he was leaving her, he took her out to dinner', 23 Nov. 2016
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Celebrating their thirteenth wedding anniversary, thirty-two-year-old Bridie Starr is wined and dined by her husband, fifty-something James, and then taken home and calmly informed by him that he wishes to leave her. He doesn't want a divorce, he tells her; there is no one else involved, he says, and he will allow her to stay in the house - especially as he would like somewhere to stay when he is on leave from his new job in Paris. Bridie, it seems, is just expected to go along with his plans for his new life without her. As a second wife to James, step-mother to James's two (now) grown-up children, and mother to their eleven-year-old daughter (who is at boarding school), Bridie has always been content to follow James's lead and do what is expected of her. However, after her husband drops his bombshell and then makes perfunctory love to her, after which he calmly falls asleep, Bridie finally comes to her senses and decides she won't just meekly go along with James's wishes and opts to take matters into her own hands. Leaving James asleep in bed, Bridie leaves the house with just the clothes she is wearing and without any money and arrives at her adoptive parents' house where she is welcomed with love and sympathy. However, although her adoptive parents offer their support, Bridie's shock at her husband's defection, suddenly makes her feel uncertain about her own identity and origins. This leads her into making enquiries about the whereabouts of her birth mother and results in her discovering something rather surprising - and also brings about the possibility of a new romance…

First published in 1979 and now republished in this attractive 'print on demand' Virago Modern Classics edition, Nina Bawden's 'Familiar Passions' is a beautifully written and entertaining novel; however, it is a very brief one, and the novel's brevity means that there is much that the reader does not know about the characters and their situations - and although this did not spoil my enjoyment of the story, I would have liked to have discovered more about Bridie's past and also more about her natural mother's past and her mother's present life. I would also have liked to have learnt more about Bridie's adoptive father's family, especially as the information that was revealed about them was very interesting, but I can't really explain further without revealing too much information and spoiling the story for those who have yet to read the novel. All of that said, I always appreciate Nina Bawden's perceptive and witty writing and I found this an entertaining and enjoyable downtime read.

4 Stars.

Also recommended by Nina Bawden: 'The Ice House' (VMC); 'Afternoon Of A Good Woman' (VMC); 'Circles Of Deceit' (VMC) and 'A Woman Of My Age' (VMC).


The Woman in White
The Woman in White
Offered by Audible Ltd

5.0 out of 5 stars An Atmospheric and Absorbing Read, 21 Nov. 2016
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One moonlit night, on a street in Hampstead, Walter Hartright meets a young woman dressed all in white, who seems to be in some distress. When she asks him if he lives in London, Walter replies that he does but that he will be leaving for Cumberland on the next day, a fact which interests the young woman and encourages her to reveal that she once lived in Cumberland at Limmeridge Village and yearns to see the village and Limmeridge House again. Walter is greatly surprised by the coincidence as he has been engaged as a drawing master to two sisters living at Limmeridge House. Before Walter can question the woman further, she becomes agitated and asks him to help her to find a carriage; however, after she has been driven away, he learns that the woman in white has escaped from a lunatic asylum. Walter is unsettled and perplexed, but when he arrives at Limmeridge House the next day and meets the elder of the two sisters, Marian Halcombe, an intelligent and sensible young woman, and explains what happened to him the night before, Miss Halcombe promises to help him discover who the young woman might be and what her connection is to Limmeridge House. When Walter meets Miss Halcombe's younger and very beautiful half-sister, Laura Fairlie, he finds himself becoming very attracted to her, but he is rather unsettled by his discovery that she bears a strong resemblance to the woman in white. Intrigued by this and affected by Laura's engaging personality, Walter finds himself falling in love with her, but the lovely Laura is engaged to be married to Sir Percival Glyde - whom, we learn, was responsible for incarcerating the woman in white in a mental asylum. When Laura marries Sir Percival, she and Marian discover that he is not the gentleman they thought him to be, and he seems to be rather too interested in Laura's inheritance, but to reveal more might spoil the story for those who have yet to read the novel - however, suffice it to say that this complex and intriguing mystery is one that holds the readers attention (or this one's anyhow) throughout the entire length of the story.

First published in 1860 and generally regarded as one of the first 'sensation' novels, Wilkie Collins 'The Woman in White' is not just an ingeniously plotted story of mystery and suspense, it also looks at the unequal position of women in Victorian society and of how women could be forced into the position of losing their rights to their money and their liberty. I first read this book in hardback many years ago, but for this most recent reading I decided to download the Kindle Whispersync version, which meant for a few pounds I could download both the Kindle edition and the Audible download edition, and was then able to switch between listening on my iPad and reading on my Kindle, which worked really well and made this particular reading of the novel an effortless and very enjoyable experience. Recommended.

5 Stars.


The Woman in White: BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation
The Woman in White: BBC Radio 4 full-cast dramatisation
Offered by Audible Ltd

4.0 out of 5 stars Atmospheric and Entertaining, 21 Nov. 2016
One moonlit night, on a street in Hampstead, Walter Hartright meets a young woman dressed all in white, who seems to be in some distress. When she asks him if he lives in London, Walter replies that he does but that he will be leaving for Cumberland on the next day, a fact which interests the young woman and encourages her to reveal that she once lived in Cumberland at Limmeridge Village and yearns to see the village and Limmeridge House again. Walter is greatly surprised by the coincidence as he has been engaged as a drawing master to two sisters living at Limmeridge House. Before Walter can question the woman further, she becomes agitated and asks him to help her to find a carriage; however, after she has been driven away, he learns that the woman in white has escaped from a lunatic asylum. Walter is unsettled and perplexed, but when he arrives at Limmeridge House the next day and meets the elder of the two sisters, Marian Halcombe, an intelligent and sensible young woman, and explains what happened to him the night before, Miss Halcombe promises to help him discover who the young woman might be and what her connection is to Limmeridge House. When Walter meets Miss Halcombe's younger and very beautiful half-sister, Laura Fairlie, he finds himself becoming very attracted to her, but he is rather unsettled by his discovery that she bears a strong resemblance to the woman in white. Intrigued by this and affected by Laura's engaging personality, Walter finds himself falling in love with her, but the lovely Laura is engaged to be married to Sir Percival Glyde - whom, we learn, was responsible for incarcerating the woman in white in a mental asylum. When Laura marries Sir Percival, she and Marian discover that he is not the gentleman they thought him to be, and he seems to be rather too interested in Laura's inheritance, but to reveal more might spoil the story for those who have yet to read the novel - however, suffice it to say that this complex and intriguing mystery is one that holds the readers attention (or this one's anyhow) throughout the entire length of the story.

First published in 1860 and generally regarded as one of the first 'sensation' novels, Wilkie Collins 'The Woman in White' is not just an ingeniously plotted story of mystery and suspense, it also looks at the unequal position of women in Victorian society and of how women could be forced into the position of losing their rights to their money and their liberty. I recently reread the unabridged version of this wonderfully atmospheric novel and was keen to share it with a friend, who, when I mentioned how much I enjoyed it, expressed an interest in reading it herself; however, as she has very little time for reading, we decided to download this BBC dramatised version to listen to on a car journey. The listening time of this dramatisation is of only four hours duration and, in consequence, a lot of the story has been condensed; I also found some parts just a little melodramatic - however, that said, this dramatised version gives a good flavour of the novel, the characters narrate their parts well, and it was certainly a very atmospheric and entertaining listening experience. In fact despite having only just recently spent some time reading the unabridged version, at no time did my interest flag during the course of listening to this BBC audio version, and although I have to say that if you can spare the time, I would still recommend either reading the full-length version or listening to the Audible unabridged download (The Woman in White), this particular version was very enjoyable and my friend is now planning on downloading the abridged audio versions of other classics she hasn't the time to read in their entirety.

4 Stars for this abridged dramatised version

(5 Stars for the unabridged version).


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