I love Wilkie Collins.
And, considering most of his work is lesser known it’s always a treat to read his books because you don’t know what you are getting. So when I found a new audiobook called Hide and Seek, I had to download it. I was not disappointed.
The book follows Valentine as he meets a deaf girl, Madonna, and decides to adopt her. So not only is this book a classical book where one of the main protagonists has a disability, but Valentine’s wife (Madonna’s foster mother) is bedridden because of a proper disability and not just ‘nerves’ (I’m not trying to talk down mental illness, which is a real thing, but in most books of this era aren’t trying to talk about mental illness, usually ‘nerves’ are a sly remark that women are more feeble than men).
So this book is both about how the Victorians could deal with disability, and it’s about the relationship between parents who have adopted a child and the child herself. I don’t know why I’m so happy that Collins are talking about these topics, yet I love the fact that he is talking about topics most Victorian writers weren’t talking about.
Madonna (real name Mary, but no one calls her that) is kind, but timid and shy due to her disability. This isn’t played as a positive or negative thing, but just a matter of fact. This is both believable, yet wonderful as Madonna isn’t judged by the author. She is allowed to deal with her disability the way she feels she should deal with it. The same thing is found with the character of Valentine. He’s an artist, He is comparably weaker and less rugged than some of the other male characters and he doesn’t drink. While this are things other characters might make a sly comment, you don’t get the feeling Collins want to mock or thinks lesser of him. He manages the fine line between looking down at those who are different, and making them into some kind of saint.
While this book does have an intricate plot, centred around Madonna’s back story, the book is mostly about the characters and their relationship with one another. About Valentine, his wife, Madonna, Zack (a friend of the family) and Matt (a friend of Zack). When you have the characters as the centre focus, you need characters that we want to follow. Collins have created interesting, unique characters it was a join to read (listen) about.