Plot summary (from the publisher): Wilkie Collin’s intriguing story about a blind girl, Lucilla Finch, and the identical twins who both fall in love with her, has the exciting complications of his better known novels, but it also overturns conventional expectations.
Using a background of myth and fairy-tale to expand the boundaries of nineteenth century realist fiction, Collins not only takes a blind person as his central character but also explores the idea of blindness and its implications. His sensitive presentation of the difficulties, disappointments, and occasional delights which follow the recovery of sight by someone blind since infancy is still one of the best accounts in fiction of a problem which continues to intrigue philosophers, psychologists, and the general public, as it has done since it was first discussed by Locke and Berkeley in the eighteenth century.
What a strange book this was! I generally like Wilkie Collins (okay, I guess I’ve only ever read his two biggies, The Moonstone and The Woman in White, but still), but thought this one was a disappointment. The setup was wonderful, what with the blind protagonist falling in love and all, but the second act and they payoff were not worth the trouble of plodding through 450 pages.
My biggest problem with the book was Miss Finch’s extreme aversion to certain colors. WTF was that all about? And Oscar just happens to require a medical treatment that turns his face a permanent blue??? (One of the forbidden shades, naturally.) It was just way too far-fetched to seem plausible even in a work of fiction. Granted, I haven’t researched this particular epilepsy treatment, so I don’t know how much of Collins’ novel was based on actual medical practices of the day. Regardless, this part of the book didn’t do much for me.
I expected the twin angle to be something more nefarious than Nugent simply wanting to trade places with Oscar out of love for Miss Finch. I was hoping there would be murder or a complicated scam or something, but that never materialized. Oh, well.
Although I stuck with Poor Miss Finch to the bitter end, there wasn’t really any good reason to do so. The characters weren’t compelling, the plot hardly warranted attention, and there was no twist or other kind of satisfying payoff to reward the reader’s patience. I give this book 2 stars out of 5.