02 May, 2012

The Woman in White - Part the Second

So Walter Hartright has left the building and taken his wimpy mooncalf-gazing self off to who knows where (actually, I know: London, then Central America to draw stuff for an expeditionary expedition to get over Laura). And thank goodness, say I. Don't let the gangplank hit you on the way up!

Then Mr. Gillmore, the family's lawyer, takes up the reins of the narrative. He is the epitome of the British gentleman lawyer: gruff and opinionated and avuncular - which actual-uncle Fairlie is not, of course. Is that juxtaposition or dichotomy or just ironic? I can't tell anymore. But he does say a few things that make me laugh:

1) Laura looks like her father but acts like her mother. Conversely, Marian looks like her mother. Stop and think for a moment - which sister is the ugly one? For a brief second, I think maybe Wilkie forgot which was whom in that giant noggin of his.

2) Mr. Gillmore is "very much afraid that Mr. Hartright is 'going wrong.'" Also, "There are three things that none of the young men of the present generation can do.They can't sit over their wine;they can't play at wist;and they can't pay a lady a compliment." If Hartright hadn't been so busy going wrong, maybe Gillmore could learn him a thing or two, eh? Eh? ::elbow::

3) Gillmore is served chilled port by a servant who should know better. For whatever reason, this made me hoot with laughter. Apparently port should not be chilled? I have no idea; I drink wine out of a box.

Then Gillmore's huffy self gets replaced by Marian to the sound of trumpets and the waving of flags. I just love Marian - who can't love a Victorian who thinks Elizabeth I is highly overrated?  Yes, there're some strange-sounding lovey bits between her and Laura - I think Sarah Waters is probably a big fan of this book - but her dedication and loyalty and bad-assery cannot be underestimated, as we shall see. Brace yourselves, my beauties. There are a lot of italics coming your way.

First, Laura tells Percival that she will marry him if he still wants to marry her, but that she loves someone else. Then, Laura is all, "I'm going to sacrifice myself on the altar of whatever this is and marry Sir Percival no matter what!" which, I may be a modern girl, but why not just leave? Martyrs bother me. Also, if the guy loves you and you tell him you're in love with not-him, he'll be jealous because that's how that emotional situation works. If he is NOT jealous, then he is NOT in this for love (especially if you are an heiress!) and you're free to pursue your penniless sitar player.

Two for Sundays, please.
On the eve of Laura's marriage, Marian has the unenviable duty of explaining something about the Way the World Works to sweet, innocent Laura. Is this the infamous "lay back and think of England, dear," speech? Marian couches it in terms of polluting innocence, so probably. And then Marian pours out her heart to her diary, saying basically, "surely Percival's not a dick? Surely I've done the right thing by pushing her into this marriage instead of saying, 'let's all be poor and marry Hartright!'" Then she says "I hardly know myself in the character of Sir Percival's warmest friend," then five lines later says, "I HATE Sir Percival!" Thank you, Mr. Collins, for reminding us that within every woman of 26 is the 16-year-old petulant child she used to be.

But you know what is so sweet? Mrs. Vesey the Cabbage Brain made Laura a Shetland shawl on the sly as a wedding gift. As someone who is attempting the same thing, let me tell you: it's no mean feat. Plus, knitting content! (I've been working on stuff, not fast enough. Moving on.)

H'okay. So. Percival and Laura go off on their honeymoon, and they bring back Count Fosco and his wife, Eleanor. Fosco is the creepiest of creepy creeps. He's huge and fat and wears womanish colors and has the lightest footsteps of everyone ever so that he's continually creeping up on people - but never mind about closing the window when you're talking secret stuff, just speak low! - and he has tamed some mice and they're continually crawling about his person. Ick. One night he goes on and on about how good criminals don't get caught, and no one bats an eyelash. Then Eleanor says something about listening to men like a good woman, and Marian points out that she (Eleanor) used to think that freedom of opinion was super-important - which is a way of saying that she (Eleanor) was a disagreeable harpy before her marriage - and no one bats an eyelash. Nary a neuron is fired.

Percival makes some comment about Laura making a "virtue of necessity" by marrying him, which translates to modern talk as "you weren't a virgin when I married you," which I guess doesn't translate all that well to modern talk because virgins, LOL. And shizz goes down, and Anne Catherick shows up and rabbits off to who-knows-where, and Percival corners Laura in the boathouse which, if it had been Hartright or written by Daphne Du Maurier would have led to Victorian sexy times but instead leads to Laura telling him everything instead of LYING to her shit-talking, secret-keeping husband.

Then Marian turns into a Sherlockian ninja and starts putting together clues from things like a boot scuff in the sand or a bit of fringe at a fork in the road and scampering over rooftops to hear Fosco and Percival talking about how to get Laura's money, at which point I am shrieking at my iPod that of course he was in it for the money, see above re. jealousy!

The End of Part 2

So, what have we learned, dear readers? That port should be chilled, men of this age are useless, and Laura is - while not quite as ridiculous as previously thought - still a milksop bore.

I miss Mr. Fairlie and Pesca. Maybe they'll show up in the next section?