Who is the "solitary figure of a woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments," whose appearance shattered forever the outward peace of life at Limmeridge House? Is she an apparition...a madwoman...perhaps a player in some bizarre scheme?
From the moment "the Woman" first appears to Walter Hartright on a moonlit London road, Wilkie Collins' melodrama casts its spell.
THE WOMAN IN WHITE was a tremendous success when it first appeared in 1860--cloaks, bonnets and perfumes were named after it. Gladstone put off a theatre party to read it. Thackeray sat up all night to finish it--and now, over 125 years later, it still enthralls.
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About the Author
Maria K. Bachman is an Associate Professor of English at Coastal Carolina University.
Don Richard Cox is a Professor of English at the University of Tennessee. They are the editors of the Broadview edition of Wilkie Collins’s Blind Love (2003).
Date of Birth:December 8, 1824
Date of Death:September 23, 1889
Place of Birth:London, England
Place of Death:London, England
Education:Studied law at Lincoln¿s Inn, London
Read an Excerpt
The Woman in White
By Wilkie Collins
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2005 Tom Doherty Associates
All rights reserved.
THE FIRST EPOCH
The Story begun by WALTER HARTRIGHT, of Clement's Inn, Teacher of Drawing
THIS IS THE story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.
If the machinery of the Law could be depended on to fathom every case of suspicion, and to conduct every process of inquiry, with moderate assistance only from the lubricating influences of oil of gold, the events which fill these pages might have claimed their share of the public attention in a Court of Justice.
But the Law is still, in certain inevitable cases, the pre-engaged servant of the long purse; and the story is left to be told, for the first time, in this place. As the Judge might once have heard it, so the Reader shall hear it now. No circumstance of importance, from the beginning to the end of the disclosure, shall be related on hearsay evidence. When the writer of these introductory lines (Walter Hartright by name) happens to be more closely connected than others with the incidents to be recorded, he will describe them in his own person. When his experience fails he will retire from the position of narrator; and his task will be continued, from the point at which he has left it off, by other persons who can speak to the circumstances under notice from their own knowledge, just as clearly and positively as he has spoken before them.
Thus, the story here presented will be told by more than one pen, as the story of an offence against the laws is told in Court by more than one witness — with the same object in both cases, to present the truth always in its most direct and most intelligible aspect; and to trace the course of one complete series of events, by making the persons who have been most closely connected with them, at each successive stage, relate their own experience, word for word.
Let Walter Hartright, teacher of drawing, aged twenty-eight years, be heard first.
IT WAS THE last day of July. The long hot summer was drawing to a close; and we, the weary pilgrims of the London pavement, were beginning to think of the cloud-shadows on the corn-fields and the autumn breezes on the sea-shore.
For my own poor part, the fading summer left me out of health, out of spirits, and, if the truth must be told, out of money as well. During the past year I had not managed my professional resources as carefully as usual; and my extravagance now limited me to the prospect of spending the autumn economically between my mother's cottage at Hampstead and my own chambers in town.
The evening, I remember, was still and cloudy; the London air was at its heaviest; the distant hum of the street-traffic was at its faintest; the small pulse of the life within me and the great heart of the city around me seemed to be sinking in unison, languidly and more languidly, with the sinking sun. I roused myself from the book which I was dreaming over rather than reading, and left my chambers to meet the cool night air in the suburbs. It was one of the two evenings in every week which I was accustomed to spend with my mother and my sister. So I turned my steps northward, in the direction of Hampstead.
Events which I have yet to relate make it necessary to mention in this place that my father had been dead some years at the period of which I am now writing; and that my sister Sarah and I were the sole survivors of a family of five children. My father was a drawing-master before me. His exertions had made him highly successful in his profession; and his affectionate anxiety to provide for the future of those who were dependent on his labours had impelled him, from the time of his marriage, to devote to the insuring of his life a much larger portion of his income than most men consider it necessary to set aside for that purpose. Thanks to his admirable prudence and self-denial, my mother and sister were left, after his death, as independent of the world as they had been during his lifetime. I succeeded to his connection, and had every reason to feel grateful for the prospect that awaited me at my starting in life.
The quiet twilight was still trembling on the topmost ridges of the Heath; and the view of London below me had sunk into a black gulf in the shadow of the cloudy night when I stood before the gate of my mother's cottage. I had hardly rung the bell, before the house-door was opened violently; my worthy Italian friend, Professor Pesca, appeared in the servant's place, and darted out joyously to receive me, with a shrill foreign parody on an English cheer.
On his own account, and, I must be allowed to add, on mine also, the Professor merits the honour of a formal introduction. Accident has made him the starting-point of the strange family story which it is the purpose of these pages to unfold.
I had first become acquainted with my Italian friend by meeting him at certain great houses, where he taught his own language and I taught drawing. All I then knew of the history of his life was, that he had once held a situation in the University of Padua; that he had left Italy for political reasons (the nature of which he uniformly declined to mention to any one); and that he had been for many years respectably established in London as a teacher of languages.
Without being actually a dwarf — for he was perfectly well-proportioned from head to foot — Pesca was, I think, the smallest human being I ever saw, out of a show-room. Remarkable anywhere by his personal appearance, he was still further distinguished among the rank and file of mankind by the harmless eccentricity of his character. The ruling idea of his life appeared to be, that he was bound to show his gratitude to the country which had afforded him an asylum and a means of subsistence by doing his utmost to turn himself into an Englishman. Not content with paying the nation in general the compliment of invariably carrying an umbrella, and invariably wearing gaiters and a white hat, the Professor further aspired to become an Englishman in his habits and amusements, as well as in his personal appearance. Finding us distinguished, as a nation, by our love of athletic exercises, the little man, in the innocence of his heart, devoted himself impromptu to all our English sports and pastimes whenever he had the opportunity of joining them; firmly persuaded that he could adopt our national amusements of the field by an effort of will, precisely as he had adopted our national gaiters and our national white hat.
I had seen him risk his limbs blindly at a fox-hunt and in a cricket-field; and, soon afterwards, I saw him risk his life, just as blindly, in the sea at Brighton.
We had met there accidentally, and were bathing together. If we had been engaged in any exercise peculiar to my own nation, I should, of course, have looked after Pesca carefully; but, as foreigners are generally quite as well able to take care of themselves in the water as Englishmen, it never occurred to me that the art of swimming might merely add one more to the list of manly exercises which the Professor believed that he could learn impromptu. Soon after we had both struck out from shore, I stopped, finding my friend did not gain on me, and turned round to look for him. To my horror and amazement, I saw nothing between me and the beach but two little white arms which struggled for an instant above the surface of the water, and then disappeared from view. When I dived for him, the poor little man was lying quietly coiled up at the bottom, in a hollow of shingle, looking by many degrees smaller than I had ever seen him look before. During the few minutes that elapsed while I was taking him in, the air revived him, and he ascended the steps of the machine with my assistance. With the partial recovery of his animation came the return of his wonderful delusion on the subject of swimming. As soon as his chattering teeth would let him speak, he smiled vacantly, and said he thought it must have been the Cramp.
When he had thoroughly recovered himself and had joined me on the beach, his warm Southern nature broke through all artificial English restraints in a moment. He overwhelmed me with the wildest expressions of affection — exclaimed passionately, in his exaggerated Italian way, that he would hold his life, henceforth, at my disposal, and declared that he should never be happy again, until he had found an opportunity of proving his gratitude by rendering me some service which I might remember, on my side, to the end of my days.
I did my best to stop the torrent of his tears and protestations by persisting in treating the whole adventure as a good subject for a joke; and succeeded at last, as I imagined, in lessening Pesca's overwhelming sense of obligation to me. Little did I think then — little did I think afterwards, when our pleasant holiday had drawn to an end — that the opportunity of serving me for which my grateful companion so ardently longed was soon to come; that he was eagerly to seize it on the instant; and that, by so doing, he was to turn the whole current of my existence into a new channel, and to alter me to myself almost past recognition.
Yet, so it was. If I had not dived for Professor Pesca, when he lay under water on his shingle bed, I should, in all human probability, never have been connected with the story which these pages will relate — I should never, perhaps, have heard even the name of the woman who has lived in all my thoughts, who has possessed herself of all my energies, who has become the one guiding influence that now directs the purpose of my life.
PESCA'S FACE AND manner, on the evening when we confronted each other at my mother's gate, were more than sufficient to inform me that something extraordinary had happened. It was quite useless, however, to ask him for an immediate explanation. I could only conjecture, while he was dragging me in by both hands, that (knowing my habits) he had come to the cottage to make sure of meeting me that night, and that he had some news to tell of an unusually agreeable kind.
We both bounced into the parlour in a highly abrupt and undignified manner. My mother sat by the open window, laughing and fanning herself. Pesca was one of her especial favourites; and his wildest eccentricities were always pardonable in her eyes. Poor dear soul! from the first moment when she found out that the little Professor was deeply and gratefully attached to her son, she opened her heart to him unreservedly and took all his puzzling foreign peculiarities for granted, without so much as attempting to understand any one of them.
My sister Sarah, with all the advantages of youth, was, strangely enough, less pliable. She did full justice to Pesca's excellent qualities of heart; but she could not accept him implicitly, as my mother accepted him, for my sake. Her insular notions of propriety rose in perpetual revolt against Pesca's constitutional contempt for appearances; and she was always more or less undisguisedly astonished at her mother's familiarity with the eccentric little foreigner. I have observed, not only in my sister's case, but in the instances of others, that we of the young generation are nothing like so hearty and so impulsive as some of our elders. I constantly see old people flushed and excited by the prospect of some anticipated pleasure which altogether fails to ruffle the tranquillity of their serene grandchildren. Are we, I wonder, quite such genuine boys and girls now as our seniors were in their time? Has the great advance in education taken rather too long a stride; and are we, in these modern days, just the least trifle in the world too well brought up?
Without attempting to answer those questions decisively, I may at least record that I never saw my mother and my sister together in Pesca's society, without finding my mother much the younger woman of the two. On this occasion, for example, while the old lady was laughing heartily over the boyish manner in which we tumbled into the parlour, Sarah was perturbedly picking up the broken pieces of a teacup, which the Professor had knocked off the table in his precipitate advance to meet me at the door.
"I don't know what would have happened, Walter," said my mother, "if you had delayed much longer. Pesca has been half-mad with impatience; and I have been half-mad with curiosity. The Professor has brought some wonderful news with him, in which he says you are concerned; and he has cruelly refused to give us the smallest hint of it till his friend Walter appeared."
"Very provoking: it spoils the Set," murmured Sarah to herself, mournfully absorbed over the ruins of the broken cup.
While these words were being spoken, Pesca, happily and fussily unconscious of the irreparable wrong which the crockery had suffered at his hands, was dragging a large arm-chair to the opposite end of the room, so as to command us all three, in the character of a public speaker addressing an audience. Having turned the chair with its back towards us, he jumped into it on his knees, and excitedly addressed his small congregation of three from an impromptu pulpit.
"Now, my good dears," began Pesca (who always said "good dears," when he meant "worthy friends"), "listen to me. The time has come — I recite my good news — I speak at last."
"Hear, hear!" said my mother, humouring the joke.
"The next thing he will break, mamma," whispered Sarah, "will be the back of the best arm-chair."
"I go back into my life, and I address myself to the noblest of created beings," continued Pesca, vehemently apostrophising my unworthy self over the top rail of the chair. "Who found me dead at the bottom of the sea (through Cramp); and who pulled me up to the top; and what did I say when I got into my own life and my own clothes again?"
"Much more than was at all necessary," I answered, as doggedly as possible; for the least encouragement in connection with this subject invariably let loose the Professor's emotions in a flood of tears.
"I said," persisted Pesca, "that my life belonged to my dear friend, Walter, for the rest of my days — and so it does. I said that I should never be happy again till I had found the opportunity of doing a good Something for Walter — and I have never been contented with myself till this most blessed day. Now," cried the enthusiastic little man, at the top of his voice, "the overflowing happiness bursts out of me at every pore of my skin, like a perspiration; for on my faith, and soul, and honour, the something is done at last, and the only word to say now, is — Right — all — right!"
It may be necessary to explain here that Pesca prided himself on being a perfect Englishman in his language, as well as in his dress, manners, and amusements. Having picked up a few of our most familiar colloquial expressions, he scattered them about over his conversation whenever they happened to occur to him, turning them, in his high relish for their sound and his general ignorance of their sense, into compound words and repetitions of his own, and always running them into each other, as if they consisted of one long syllable.
"Among the fine London houses where I teach the language of my native country," said the Professor, rushing into his long-deferred explanation without another word of preface, "there is one, mighty fine, in the big place called Portland. You all know where that is? Yes, yes — course-of-course. The fine house, my good dears, has got inside it a fine family. A Mamma, fair and fat; three young Misses, fair and fat; two young Misters, fair and fat; and a Papa, the fairest and the fattest of all, who is a mighty merchant, up to his eyes in gold — a fine man once, but seeing that he has got a naked head and two chins, fine no longer at the present time. Now mind! I teach the sublime Dante to the young Misses, and ah! — my-soul-bless-my-soul! — it is not in human language to say how the sublime Dante puzzles the pretty heads of all three! No matter — all in good time — and the more lessons the better for me. Now mind! Imagine to yourselves that I am teaching the young Misses to-day, as usual. We are all four of us down together in the Hell of Dante. At the Seventh Circle — but no matter for that: all the Circles are alike to the three young Misses, fair and fat — at the Seventh Circle, nevertheless, my pupils are sticking fast; and I, to set them going again, recite, explain, and blow myself up red-hot with useless enthusiasm, when — a creak of boots in the passage outside, and in comes the golden Papa, the mighty merchant with the naked head and the two chins. — Ha! my good dears, I am closer than you think for to the business now. Have you been patient so far? or have you said to yourselves, 'Deuce-what-the-deuce! Pesca is long-winded to-night?'"
Excerpted from The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Copyright © 2005 Tom Doherty Associates. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations Acknowledgements Introduction William Wilkie Collins: A Brief Chronology A Note on the Text
The Woman in White
Appendix A: Prefaces to the Novel
- Preface, 1860, Sampson Low, Son & Co., Three-volume Edition
- Preface to the Present Edition, 1861, Sampson Low, Son & Co., One-volume Edition
- Preface. La Femme en Blanc, 1861, trans. E.D. Forgues, J. Hetzel (Paris)
Appendix B: Sample Page from All the Year Round
Appendix C: Commentary and Reviews of The Woman in White
- The Opinions of Charles Dickens
- Unsigned Review, Saturday Review (25 August 1860)
- Unsigned Review [E.S. Dallas], The Times (30 October 1860)
- “Awful Apparition,” Punch (6 April 1861)
- Unsigned Review [Mrs. Oliphant], Blackwood’s Magazine (May 1862)
- Edmund Yates, “Mr. Wilkie Collins in Gloucester Place,” in Celebrities at Home (1879)
- Wilkie Collins, “How I Write My Books: Related in a Letter to a Friend,” The Globe (26 November 1887)
- F.W. Waddy, “He Wrote ‘The Woman in White,’” Once a Week (24 February 1872)
Appendix D: The Woman Question
- From William Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–69)
- From Sarah Stickney Ellis, The Women of England,Their Social Duties, and Domestic Habits (1839)
- From John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies, 1865 (1907)
- From Caroline Norton, A Letter to the Queen (1855)
Appendix E: The Lunacy Panic of 1858 and the Mesmeric Mania of 1851
- “Lady Bulwer Lytton,” The Times (19 July 1858)
- “Commission of Lunacy,” The Times (27 July 1858)
- [Editorial], The Times (28 July 1858)
- “The Tragedy of Acomb House,” The Sunday Times (1 August 1858)
- “The Mad-House System,” The Sunday Times (15 August 1858)
- “Lunatic Asylums and the Lunacy Laws (By a Physician),” The Times (19 August 1858)
- “Commission in Lunacy,” The Sunday Times (29 August 1858)
- “Law and Lunacy,” Punch (25 January 1862)
- “Mesmerism; Its Dangers and Curiosities,” Punch (24 February 1844)
- Anonymous, “Electro-biology,” Westminster Review (1851)
- Wilkie Collins, “Magnetic Evenings At Home” (Letter I), The Leader (17 January 1852)
What People are Saying About This
"Collins's mid-Victorian novel is one of the first, and possibly still the greatest, of all literary thrillers." -The Irish Times
Reading Group Guide
1. Wilkie Collins has been hailed as the creator of the “sensation novel”. Citing examples from The Woman in White, how would you define this Victorian literary genre?
2. In his preface to the 1860 edition of The Woman in White, Collins wrote, “An experiment is attempted in this novel, which has not (so far as I know) been hitherto tried in fiction. The story…is told throughout by the characters of the book.” Was the experiment a success? What is gained and what is lost in telling the story exclusively through first person narratives?
3. In her Introduction to this Modern Library edition, Anne Perry asks, “What is there in The Woman in White that transcends the change in culture from 1860 to the present, and beyond?” How would you answer this question?
4. Collins has been widely praised for his fully drawn portraits. Which characters stand out as the most vivid, and why?
5. Throughout the novel, how does Collins use premonitions, coincidences and dreams to foreshadow key events?
6. “Walter Hartright is very much a man of his time, ” declares Anne Perry. “His view of women is almost unbelievably naïve compared with today’s.” Drawing on Hartright’s descriptions of Marian Halcombe and her sister Laura, as well as Anne Catherick and her mother, do you agree with Perry’s comment? Do you think that Wilkie Collins shared his protagonist’s view of women?
7. Why does Mrs. Catherick allow her own daughter to be placed in an insane asylum, and how does she justify her actions?
8. In his concluding narrative, Count Fosco describes “thefirst and last weakness” of his life. What is the nature of Fosco’s self-described “deplorable and uncharacteristic fault”?
9. Throughout the novel, how does Collins explore the themes of respectability and social class?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The Woman in White is a Victorian mystery that is considered to be one of the best mysteries ever written. Written in 1859, it takes the form of an early detective novel with an amateur sleuth. The plot (man marries woman and schemes to get her money), albeit predictable by today's standards, is plausible, entertaining and, at times, slightly suspenseful. I attribute this slightness to the Victorian language itself. I'm not a fan of that style of speaking and found myself frustrated at times and thinking just get on with it all ready, stop dragging things out. The story is told from the viewpoints of several characters - much like a legal deposition where each character relates what he/she knows about certain events. ----- The characters were interesting and memorable; however, I was disappointed in the characterization/treatment of women - weak and inferior. Was this an accurate portrayal for the times? I don't know. I have read other Victorian novels and didn't come away with the same feeling. Because of his portrayal of women, Mr. Collins didn't do justice to Marion Halcombe, one of the more memorable characters in the novel. A greater role would have been appreciated more by today's society but, in 1859, who knows. Creating a lead woman character who 'out thinks' a man may have been taboo. The other memorable character was Count Fosco, the mastermind behind everything evil in the world. I am being a bit facetious; however, the character was so full of himself that I couldn't help but inflate his imaginary ego a little more. His character was fully developed - I didn't like him and found him frustrating - once again this could be attributed to the Victorian language. ----- Overall, I did like the novel; however, the above issues prevent me from giving it more than three stars. I recommend to those who enjoy Victorian literature and those who would like to read one of the first mystery novels. This is a long book and not a quick read - you will be in it for the long haul - which you will enjoy.
Where has this book been all my life? Written in the time of Dickens and Stoker and as good as either, this is a shockingly modern thriller/mystery. This United Holdings Group edition is very good, with no typos or scan errors that I noticed. Worth the buck over the free version which is riddled with errors.
There were aspects of this book I really enjoyed. I love the Victorian, Jane Austenesque language of the book. The plot is also intricate and promising. But it was just too dang long to get where it was going. Somewhere along the way I read that this had been a serialized novel published in a paper. I could see that and I had the same problem with another book compiled from a serial. Also while the plot was good on its own merits, the way it gets tied up at the end is disappointing in terms of the characters involved. That being said, if you love the writing coming from this time period, you will find this book satisfying. If you love intrigue and mystery you will also find something satisfactory in this book. But, Wilkie, couldn't you have just gotten to the point quicker!
Often lauded as the first true mystery novel, "The Woman in White" is as intriguing as it is original. The plot is carefully crafted and often surprising in its twists and turns. The characters are painstakingly crafted and beautifully developed (particularly Count Fosco) and, by the middle of the book, I found I was worrying over the fate of the hero and heroine in spite of myself. Admittedly, I found this novel slow to start, but once all of the characters were on the proverbial stage, things moved rather quickly. All in all, this novel is worth the read for avid mystery novel readers interested in how the mystery genre first became popular. Incidentally, Collins wrote some wonderful psychological/ghost thrillers, which I have recommended it below. Happy reading!
526 pages/numerous typos/however what a great story. Rated 5 w/o typos
I very much enjoyed this novel. I was intrigued from the beginning, and most of the time found it difficult to put the book down. The were parts that were completely unexpected taht kept me hooked reading. This book is a perefect blend of Victorian Romance and Mystery. Wonderful book and one of the best I have read in a while! Truly worth the time!
Laura Fairly is the innocent, the young, sheltered, Victorian maiden who abides by her departed father's wishes. On his deathbed, he bids her to marry Sir Percival Glyde. Enter villainy. The grasping, frightened, short-tempered Sir Percival insists on a speedy wedding. He handily dispatches any obstacles thrown up in his path; he is damned and determined to wed Laura--and her fortune. But Laura has a sister, Marian, a strong-willed, independent, fiercely loyal sister who at first champions the marriage and then recoils once she realizes the true nature of Sir Percival. The man is a monster. And Marian will do anything to protect her sister. Heroism, and then some. There is also another, a drawing master named Walter Hartright, commissioned to teach Laura and Marian the fine art of watercolors. He falls in love with Laura, and she with him--before her marriage to Sir Percival. The drama should be obvious. But what of the title? Who is the Woman in White? Her chance meeting with Walter Hartright on the road to London provides the catalyst upon which the entire narrative turns. She is at once and both the key and the puzzle. She is a victim. She is a harbinger. She scares Sir Percival out of his wits. This book offers vivid portrayals of Victorian England, its mannerisms, its wardrobe, its inhibitions, its attitude. This book eerily reflects our own time, our own angst, in the 21st century. Once you read it, you'll know what I mean. Deception has no age. P.S. Whatever you do, don't turn your back on Count Fosco!
A great classic novel which starts with a mysterious woman in white, a young art teacher and two distinctly different sisters and then proceeds to envelope you in a twisted plot of murder, mistaken identities, arson and and secret brotherhood. It will definitely keep you guessing!
I had never heard of Wilkie Collins before I read The Woman in White recommended to me by my wife though she had not read it either. It's an engrossing Victorian Novel with interesting characters ranging from an artistic narrator to a frail heiress. The writing is very good. I could summarize the first half of this long book in one sentence, yet lounging around in the language and the characters makes the experience worthwhile. This book is not for people who like quick reads!
Excellent suspence novel . The format was refreshingly different. Written in the first person as a journal. The characters were well developed and believable.
This is a very unusual narrative treatment but very effective. The author keeps you guessing and trips you up when you think you've solved the mystery. I enjoyed this book more than most I have read lately.
Yes, it is very long and descriptive but it is oh, so worth it. if you take the time to read this book, you will be rewarded with a great mystery and wonderfully interesting characters. Additionally the insight into 19th century English life is terrific.
I'd forgotten how charming books from that time can be. I totally enjoyed it.
I was hesitant to start reading the book thinking it would be a bore how wrong i was!!! It is an excellent story written in a peculiar but interesting format. Not only is the story riveting in itself the lifestyles, behaviors and customs of that age are an eye opener. I simply loved it and was sad to actually finish the book.
This book is a really good read, its so unpredictable, and it keeps you guessing..However, SOME parts of it drag on and repeat themselves, and the reader MIGHT find themselves a little annoyed by the frequent changes in the narrator. But the storyline is really good, and its definitely an engaging story with tons of unexpected twists and turns
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time, and possibly the best mystery / detective I've ever read. Exceptional crafting, very suspensful. It was the kind of book you race to see what happens and are disappointed when you get to the end and the pleasure is over.
'The Woman in White' may not be as well-known as, say, 'Oliver Twist,' but I can tell you with certainty that it is much more entertaining. I read classic books all the time, but this is the first that has kept me riveted from beginning to end. Yes, it's a Victorian novel, but it isn't nearly so long-winded, plodding, or didactic as Dickens, so give it a chance. I stayed up late several nights just to read this book; I could hardly put it down! I highly recommend it, even to people who usually don't like the classics. You'll like it!
An excellent and believable tale of lies, treachery and determination. This book proves there's nothing that stands between determination and your goal. I could not find a single flaw in it... it's absolutly PERFECT!
The Woman in White was a great read. I could feel that it was lengthy at times, but it never lost my interest. I managed to guess at the conspiracy fairly accurately, but I was never quite sure if I was correct, and I didn't figure out the secret. The ending with Count Fosco had a bit of a deus ex machina feel - Pesca's previous connections were never mentioned - but otherwise everything was brilliantly done. Wilkie Collins has a great narrative voice and an ability to switch the story effortlessly between narrators while giving them distinct identities. Highly recommended, and I similarly highly recommend The Moonstone for another terrific Victorian mystery by this author.
One of the best books I've read, a brilliant and haunting book.
A long book but well worth it. As things evolve you end up with multiple mysteries which are solved one by one though all interconnect.If I'd been a woman of the period, the book would have given me chills. It's easy to forget how little recourse women had in those days, especially if they had no family to speak of. And sometimes even then.Mr. Collins does a marvelous job giving different voices to each of those who turned in accounts on the mystery.
"Oh! It's starting to get good," I exclaimed to my husband on more than one occasion as I read The Woman in White before bedtime. "Never mind," I would later add, having read the next paragraph. He was utterly surprised then when I commented how much I liked the book upon finishing it. He wanted to know if the ending made up for the slow start. I found myself trying to explain to him that I didn't really mind the slow start, but I think it was lost on him. Just as I am sure you might think I am crazy too. For all the whining and complaining I did about how long it took me to read The Woman in White, you'd think I was miserable reading it. Bored even. I actually really liked the book when I was reading it. I loved it, in fact. My references to it finally getting good wasn¿t so much a pronouncement that it was not good, just my expectation that a big revelation was coming. Wilkie Collins sure knew how to create suspense, but it a more quiet and subtle way than today¿s thrillers often do. I loved the author's long windedness and his drawing out of events. I loved his use of language and his ability to pull me into the story. I felt like I got to know each of the characters and was standing right there beside them in every scene. I could predict how certain characters would react to certain events because I had come to know them so well. I could visualize perfectly the various places in which the story took place. I liked the format the author used to tell the story and appreciated the buildup of anticipation. My impatience and desire for the book to go faster was purely based on selfish reasons, and not a reflection on the book. The Woman in White is one of those novels that requires the reader to slow down and appreciate the finer points. My timing in reading the book was off. I wasn't in the right mind set for reading a book that required my full attention and time, not to mention I had been ill while reading some of it. Once I was able to devote more time to the novel, I found the right reading rhythm, and the book seemed to move along at a more acceptable (to me) pace. Published initially as a serial from 1959 to 1960, Wilkie Collins' novel was a great hit. So much so that it became a stage production (although unauthorized) within three months of the book's publication. My copy of The Woman and White included excerpts of letters and reviews written around the time of the book's release, which I found quite interesting. While the book garnered much praise, others were less impressed: ¿Had the story been wrought out in the old-fashioned way it could have been told far more effectively and in less space . . . A novelist who aims at being natural, and writes seriously, should refrain from reminding us of so broad a farce as Shakespeare¿s Comedy of Errors.¿ [Excerpt from the Dublin University Magazine, February 1861] Wilkie Collins' The Woman In White is told in multiple narratives, a collection of letters and journal entries used to document the events surrounding the mystery of the woman in white and that of Laura Fairlie, a lady of society whose own life and fate are intertwined with that of the title character. From the Barnes and Noble website:The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue. The novel is filled with an intriguing cast of characters. While the novel is plot driven from the start, the characters are well developed, from the least significant character who appears only for a page or two to the most important. My favo
My mother bought this book for me - I'd never heard of Wilkie Collins until she did, but one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever been given.I read all 600 pages of this book in 3 days before and after work - I did not want to put it down! Admittedly Laura is probably one of the weakest female characters I've ever come across and some of the twists aren't all that unexpected, but I just kept wanting to know the end to find out whether the deductions I'd made throughout the story were correct!I'll certainly be looking for more Collins over the next few months - an absolute pioneer of the 'sensationalist genre'. If you like Sir Conan Doyle, I highly recommend the Woman in White.In a word: Enthralling
Why did I wait this long to read this? It's one of my top 10 reads for the year.A beautiful and fragile woman, beloved sister and niece to a bedridden invalid, finds love when a drawing master is engaged for the 2 women. That love is not to be acknowledged because she is betrothed to another, one who is determined to marry her despite her frank admission to him that her heart has been given to another. Her husband appears to be the epitome of grace, charm and thoughtfulness .... until they are wed. She's reunited with her aunt who is married to a jovial Italian Count with a fondness for pet mice and birds ... but what is it about them that is making her nervous? And what is the mystery behind the woman in white, who escaped from a private asylum and who believes she knows a secret that could ruin everything? Told through narratives and journal entries, this tells the tale of greed, danger, secrets, conspiracyfear, and love. This is a page turner you won't want to put down.
I'd heard good things about this book for years and now I've read it I know exactly why it's never been out of print; it's a superb, ground-breaking work. Like any novel written 150 years ago, it takes some getting used to; the writing style, the characterizations, the plot points themselves, but once you acclimate, this novel is truly a thriller worth reading. And it is a taut work despite its length. There is always something going on and the little hints and contradictions between accounts from each narrator keep you engaged.I admit that it was hard sometimes to keep my 21st century sensibilities to myself. Honestly, I couldn't see what was so attractive about Laura that kept Marian and Walter her devoted slaves. I guess being a limpid, fainting female so compliant as to have no personality of her own was the epitome of female attractions back then. Maybe both Walter and Marian just needed someone to mother, protect and control to feel like they had any value in life. The lengths they went to keep Laura completely sheltered from any whiff of reality was absurd to me and a few times I wanted to smack all three of them. But only a few times. Overall, Collins did a good job of reaching through the decades and making me feel sympathy for Laura and her plight. Then again, she was so insensible to most of it that there wasn't a lot to feel sorry for. I mean, doesn't a person have to feel the pain of her situation before anyone else can feel bad about it? Of all the players involved, we never hear from her directly so can't get a good grip on what this whole experience did to her. She was so thoroughly insulated that it probably wasn't much, like a bird that has its cage changed from one to another doesn't comprehend what's been done. I felt slightly insulted by this treatment on Laura's behalf. Hell, at least she didn't whine, I guess that's something.As far as characters went, this novel is loaded with outstanding examples. First of all the villains; Count Fosco and Sir Glyde were deliciously wicked and underhanded. Fosco is the orchestrator of all their shenanigans and must leash his friend's more overt and violent impulses. I never did understand what bound the two together in the first place, maybe just a mutual interest in decadent living and swindling folks to acquire it. Glyde's initial scam in claiming an inheritance that didn't belong to him might have been planned by Fosco himself since he seems to have gained his titles the same way, but we don't really know. Glyde is vicious, but not in the same way Fosco is vicious. Fosco maintains an air of moral superiority that is downright nauseating. And his slave wife is the same way. I wished a worse end on both of them than they received, but perhaps Collins felt he needed to pull his punch to keep his readers from having an attack of the vapors. Glyde's end, though horrifying in the extreme, lacks personalization and therefore is somewhat unsatisfying as well.Another character I quite loved was Uncle Fairlie. What a righteous old queen he was. His fussing, flightiness and willful obstinacy was a wonder to behold. Yeah, he was annoying, but provided a much needed uplift to the grinding dread and tension of the novel. It was also great to see how easily manipulated he was by everyone who came in contact with him. I did feel sorry for his valet, though. Leaving the estate to the kid in the end was a bit of a stretch given the fact that he was so uncaring about inheritance in the past. I mean, he knew that Laura's marriage settlement was a screwed up thing, but didn't care, so why should he care about some brat he'd never seen? I can't picture him bothering. It is out of character.And Marian is a mystery to me as well. Sure, Walter is smitten by a pretty, empty-headed girl as men have been for all of time and can't help slaving away over Laura, but what of Marian? Despite her outward appearance of self-assurance, she must really feel she has no chance of marriage. Or maybe the s