The Woman in White

To those who joined us last night in our impromptu BronteAlong viewing of the 2006 Jane Eyre with Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson, I want to say welcome and thank you — it is so gratifying to find new, similarly inclined fiends with whom one might share one’s obsessions.

When I was in the early throes of my Rochester-induced distraction after first watching this version in early 2007 (when PBS first aired the BBC version for us in the US), I went around looking for more Toby-Stephens-related stuff, not realizing at first that it was Rochester, and how Stephens portrayed him, that had my heart — and that this did not necessarily extend to his entire oeuvre.

So watching him in The Great Gatsby, for instance, was singularly unfulfilling.

But I did eventually find something that had much of the same charm, starred Stephens as the romantic lead, but didn’t distract one so much with how altered his appearance was from the black-haired brooder of Thornfield Hall.

The BBC Radio adaptation of Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White was just the thing.

I listened to it in my car on an impromptu road trip to Northampton, Massachusetts, to visit with my friend Erica, whose house had just burned down to the ground, and who needed comforting. And dinner plates. And socks. They sort of lost everything.

The fantastically gothic Woman in White was just the thing to listen to in the middle of February, driving through the snow-swept hills and farmlands of Western Massachusetts, spending a week alternately serving as a stoic shoulder to cry on, a comforting soother of frayed nerves, and a phlegmatic advisor on the proper selection of bed linens at Target.

Unfortunately, I came down with an insanely viral flu on the last day of my visit. I had to leave early, so that I had half a chance of arriving home before my fever rose so high that I shouldn’t be allowed to drive — and I’m not sure it wasn’t too high already when I set out.

So I listened to the second half of The Woman in White — which is, mind you, complete with staggering woefully across the moors, as any good Gothic novel should be — driving as fast as I dared down the Mass Pike, trying to distract myself from the need to either (a) put my head back against the seat rest and pass out, or (b) throw up.

That voice — and the great fun that is The Woman in White — was just the medicine I needed.

Not that I wasn’t sick as a dog for the next week. I certainly was.

But when it comes to medicine, there is some that merely cures, and some that actually heals.

4 Thoughts.

  1. oh, i LOVE the woman in white. even more than the moonstone. i must find this bbc radio adaptation as soon as possible! what is it about these gothic novels that’s so wonderfully appealing? funnily enough, i don’t actually like wuthering heights (although i simply adore the tenant of wildfell hall). sacrilege, i know, but there you have it. give me jane and rochester any day — characters with whom i’d happily share a gloomy wander through a dusky garden — over heathcliff and cathy — characters i’d rather throw off a crenellated tower walk.

    for more broody swoonworthiness, have you checked out richard armitage in elizabeth gaskell’s north and south? simply wonderful (the book’s not half bad either :) ).

  2. I completely agree about Cathy and Heathcliff. Mostly they just make me mad. And tragic endings really are never my favorite.

    And OMG YES I only just last month got around to watching North and South — very very smouldery!! I was actually on the verge of showing Melissa N&S first before Jane Eyre, but then I couldn’t help myself and showed her my alltime favorite first. And now we are completely worthless for any other movie or endeavor until the obsession runs its course. Which, as we know, can take a lifetime. :)

    But I will get around to smouldery old John Thornton before too long. I must. He is too good to leave alone for long.

  3. I recently saw Toby Stephens in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall on Netflix. Any thoughts? He’s not so bad, but definitely still broody, and I have to say – love that hat! Thanks for doing this Bronte Along. Jane Eyre was my favorite book growing up and you’ve inspired me to share it with my daughter. We’ve already watched the movie and swooned as required, and are just starting the book together.

  4. I agree that he’s pretty good in Wildfell Hall, and I honestly LOVE the character he plays in the book — he’s a funny, honest, self-deprecating guy in the book — but I feel like young Toby is very different from older Toby. Melissa and I were just saying that he’s going to be seriously amazing when he’s like, 50 or 60. But as a younger man he can too often come across as smug, even when the character/situation doesn’t call for it.

    Jane Eyre was also MY favorite book growing up. I sort of graduated from an obsession with Little Women to an obsession with Jane Eyre. I love that you’re sharing it with your daughter, and that you’re both joining us in BronteAlong!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *