Hmmm… I read Dickens, rather than Collins, at A-level, which is interesting because the Dickens that I read was Bleak House and it reintroduced me to a love for Dickens (Q. Do you like Dickens? A. I don’t know, I’ve never been to one. [That’s lowered the tone, but it’s still one of my favourite jokes]) that has never left me.
Bleak House led me to The Moonstone, which led me to The Woman in White. And that’s where I stopped for several decades. Then the eloquent Charles Lambert convinced me to read Armadale. It was good – a little overwrought, as is The Woman in White, but still good.
Oh, this is difficult! I have to keep The Moonstone, as it’s a book I return to over and over, but can I live without The Woman in White? Count Fosco is a superbly drawn character but is one really well-rendered villain enough to preserve the whole book when I need to reduce my collection by at least 70%?
Well … the problem with Count Fosco is not the Count himself but the fact that since those ghastly Go Compare adverts have aired on UK television, I cannot help but compare the Go Compare tenor (Wynne Evans) with Fosco and so his appeal is a little dented. Okay, with a considerable pang – The Moonstone is a keeper, The Woman in White is not.