Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Woman In White's cousin

Reading The Woman In White, I can't help thinking of it from Magdalen's point of view.

Family relationships are a complicated thing in The Woman In White. Magdalen Fairlie is Laura Fairlie's cousin, who doesn't feature in the story at all, just getting a mention in the course of Mr Gilmore's chronicle of who inherits what in the case of Laura's death. We don't know anything about her, other than that her father died quite some time ago, and her brother 'was drowned at Oxford' at the age of 18 at some point in the past. She apparently isn't close to Laura, since there's no mention of her so much as attending Laura's funeral or dropping by to say hello when it turns out Laura isn't dead at all.

Here's what happens in the book from Magdalen's viewpoint - her cousin Laura is reported to have died, very sadly. Then some months later, she reappears in the company of a new husband, Walter Hartright, who explains that Laura's death was all part of a conspiracy carried out by her first husband Sir Percival Glyde and the evil Count Fosco, and it was actually someone else who died. The conspirators are both also dead now - Glyde accidentally killed himself while trying to destroy evidence of his illegitimacy and Fosco was murdered by a secret society for reasons unrelated to the plot of the book. Walter Hartright happened to be nearby on both occasions, but had nothing to do with their deaths.

All this is plausible as long as Laura is around to speak for herself, but then she is 'delicate', and Walter goes out of his way to protect her from talking to people if it might disturb her. If I was Magdalen, I'd find it suspicious. Especially since Walter is clearly very friendly with Laura's half-sister Marian Halcombe, and the two of them are always together while Laura's in bed with a headache...

Thing is, Magdalen stands to inherit Limmeridge House if it turns out that the whole thing is a scam on the part of Walter and Marian. If I was her, I'd be investigating, or else hatching a scheme to discredit and disinherit Laura. There should be a sequel.

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