Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Elizabeth Kostova's top ten books for winter nights

Elizabeth Kostova is the author of The Historian and The Swan Thieves.

For the Guardian, in 2005 she named her top ten books for winter nights. One title on the list:
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, 1860

I know, I know - two by the same author. But what's a star-struck reader to do? The Woman in White is, if anything, an even more powerful story of human foibles than The Moonstone, although the mystery at its heart is less classic in shape - this is a tale of identity and legacy rather than a strict mystery. When nasty Sir Percival Glyde decides to get his wife's inheritance a little sooner than later, it's up to the carefully named Walter Hartright to clear the reputation of the woman he loves. Saying much more than that would give everything away. The figure of the woman in white, glimmering through all these pages, is alternately druid, muse, ghost, and bride. Hartright, as the novel's main narrator and assembler of the documents that make up the story, is so excessively honorable that he gets a little tiresome at moments, but the various women of the book - in white and otherwise - are wonderfully real. Not to be confused with a current musical production.
Read about the other books on Kostova's list.

The Woman in White is one of Philip Pullman's forty favorite books.

Also see Alan Cheuse's short list of books to warm a winter's night and the Independent's list of the fifty best winter reads.

--Marshal Zeringue