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The Woman in White

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'In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop... There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white'

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his 'charming' friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

Matthew Sweet's introduction explores the phenomenon of Victorian 'sensation' fiction, and discusses Wilkie Collins's biographical and societal influences. Included in this edition are appendices on theatrical adaptations of the novel and its serialisation history.

672 pages, Paperback

First published November 26, 1859

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About the author

Wilkie Collins

2,395 books2,272 followers
A close friend of Charles Dickens from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William Wilkie Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed.

Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for 50 years. Most of his books are in print, and all are now in e-text. He is studied widely; new film, television, and radio versions of some of his books have been made; and all of his letters have been published. However, there is still much to be discovered about this superstar of Victorian fiction.

Born in Marylebone, London in 1824, Collins' family enrolled him at the Maida Hill Academy in 1835, but then took him to France and Italy with them between 1836 and 1838. Returning to England, Collins attended Cole's boarding school, and completed his education in 1841, after which he was apprenticed to the tea merchants Antrobus & Co. in the Strand.

In 1846, Collins became a law student at Lincoln's Inn, and was called to the bar in 1851, although he never practised. It was in 1848, a year after the death of his father, that he published his first book, 'The Memoirs of the Life of William Collins, Esq., R.A'., to good reviews.

The 1860s saw Collins' creative high-point, and it was during this decade that he achieved fame and critical acclaim, with his four major novels, 'The Woman in White' (1860), 'No Name' (1862), 'Armadale' (1866) and 'The Moonstone' (1868). 'The Moonstone', is seen by many as the first true detective novel T. S. Eliot called it "the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels ..." in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe.

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5 stars
52,844 (35%)
4 stars
54,598 (37%)
3 stars
29,571 (20%)
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1 star
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 9,086 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.3k followers
March 17, 2020

The only real flaw in this densely plotted page-turner of a novel is that in the end it slightly disappoints because it promises more than it delivers. It makes the reader fall in love with its plain but resourceful heroine Marian Halcombe, and teases us with the delightful prospect that she will become the principal agent bringing the villains to justice. When, in the middle of the novel, Marian tells her half-sister Laura that "our endurance must end, and our resistance begin," it seems like a groundbreaking feminist principle, and a little later Collins gives us the perfect metaphor for liberation when Marian divests herself of much of her cumbersome Victorian clothing so that she may safely climb out on a roof to eavesdrop on her enemies.

But--alas!--she is soaked by the rain, becomes ill, and--after having been removed to the ancient Gothic wing of the estate to recuperate--she returns to the plain woman's typical Victorian role of loyal sister and adoring aunt, allowing the returning hero Walter Hartwright to tie up the loose ends of the plot. Nevertheless, the intricate resolution is absorbing (even if the last hundred pages seem too crowded and rushed) and the ending (although perhaps too pat) is satisfying.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention Count Fosco! He is--particularly in Marian's grudgingly admiring description--one of the most fascinating and dangerous villains of all mystery fiction.
Profile Image for Grace Tjan.
188 reviews497 followers
August 7, 2012

Beware of spoilers!

What I learned from this book (in no particular order) :

1. Italians are excitable, dedicated to the opera, and most likely to be involved with organized crime.

2. Beware of fat, jolly Italian counts with submissive wives and fondness of white mice and canaries.

3. Watch out if your newly wed husband lives in a stately pile with an abandoned wing full of creepy Elizabethan furniture. If the said ancestral house is surrounded by dark ponds and eerie woods, expect the worst.

4. A Baronet is not always noble, and his impressive manor and estate might be mortgaged to the hilt. Instead of being the lady of the house, you might be forced to pay HIS debts. Make sure that the marriage settlement is settled in your favor before marrying.

5. Never marry for convenience or enter into any legal agreement when you are:
a. under age;
b. sentimental and easily persuadable;
c. prone to swooning and fainting.

6. Intelligent, resourceful women are likely to be mannish, and even actually HAVE a mustache, but are strong and have good figures. They can also be relied on to provide intelligent conversation when your beautiful but fragile wives are too busy swooning.

7. Shutting yourself up in a medieval vestry full of combustible materials with a candle for lighting is NOT advisable. Always have your minions do the dirty work.

8. Being ‘feeble in mind’ is enough reason to get you committed into an asylum for the mentally ill. So is knowing some secret that you might accidentally blurt out to strangers.

9. You CAN marry someone who is legally dead. Nobody bothered to check the civil registry records in those good old days.

10. A ménage a trois is fun, but you have to marry at least ONE of them first to preserve Victorian propriety.


Lately, I have received several personal messages that accused me, based on point#1 in my review above, of being prejudiced toward Italians --- something which couldn't be further from the truth. For those who hold such view, I would like to point out that my review is a parody which involves humorous, satiric or ironic imitations of the plot, characters or point of views set forth in the novel.The "This is what I learned" heading is a part of the whole exercise, and does not mean that I personally subscribe to the points enumerated therein. Obviously, I don't believe that "intelligent, resourceful women are likely to be mannish, and even actually HAVE a mustache" (point 6) or that "being ‘feeble in mind’ is enough reason to get you committed into an asylum for the mentally ill" (point 8) --- just as I don't believe that "Italians are excitable, dedicated to the opera, and most likely to be involved with organized crime".

I'm aware that my sense of humor is not to everyone's taste, but it has never been my intention to denigrate Italians or any other ethnic groups in this review (or any other review of mine).

Profile Image for Jason.
114 reviews578 followers
February 21, 2016
DON'T READ THIS BOOK, unless you've got the patience, stamina, and requisite taste for a quintessential mid-Victorian novel. If you don't, you'll think The Woman in White is terribly overwrought and 500 pages too long. If you like Victorian writing, you'll think this is a well-drawn, balanced novel with characters to root for, characters to despise, a twisting plot that rolls up seamlessly, and narrated ingeniously from multiple points of view. If you're unsure whether you like or dislike Victorian writing, this book is an outstanding introductory choice, and it's one that I recommend unreservedly, to you and to my friends. Some facts in its favor: it was considered the first English sensation novel of the psychological mystery genre, has been continuously in print for 150 years, has a 4+ star rating from over 5700 Goodread reviews, and was written by a guy named Wilkie.

The most prominent, intrinsic hurdle of The Woman in White is the writing. If you haven't had exposure to authors such as Charles Dickens, Henry James, Victor Hugo, the Bronte sisters, Oliver Wendell Holmes, then you haven't been tested by fire with the length and circuitousness of Victorian writing. It could take a page or paragraph to describe how a character moved. It's at once beautiful, savory, complete, and exact. However, readers may complain that it's simply unnecessary verbiage. I'll give you an example:

I waited where I was, to ascertain whether his object was to come to close quarters and speak, on this occasion. To my surprise, he passed on rapidly, without saying a word, without even looking up in my face as he went by. This was such a complete inversion of the course of proceeding which I had every reason to expect on his part, that my curiosity, or rather my suspicion, was aroused, and I determined, on my side, to keep him cautiously in view, and to discover what the business might be on which he was now employed. (p. 503)

This could be easily rewritten as: I waited, but he passed me without a glance. His action surprised me, so I followed him to discover what his intentions were. If this was, in fact, how it was written, then the story would be 200 pages and selling as a cheap, mass-market paperback best read on a beach vacation. No, we read novels like The Woman in White first and foremost because of the writing--the convoluted but balanced thought, the investigation of intent from multiple sides, the uber-descriptive narrative that doesn't rest. If your thoughts tend to regurgitate and grind on situations that occur to you throughout the day, then you understand and enjoy this type of lilting writing that revisits a topic over and over again.

I find myself rereading with amazement and pleasure the skill of word and sentence placement. I think with a smirk what it'd be like today if we talked like this to each other: "Madame, may I question with all appropriate respect, &c, &c, if this book held betwixt my thumb and finger is, surely, the same novel as that penned by the indefatigable Wilkie Collins, esq., for if it is the veritable same, I intend with diligence, and without delay, at least delay on my part, not counting that which I may encounter on my ambulation home, to read immediately the book for which I inquire now, pray tell? Fantastic--not my writing--but the idea that we English speakers once talked like this, and could again if we read nothing but Victorian novels. I'd like to try a couple months with language like this around and about town today.

My favorite character, by a whimper, was Mr. Fairlie. What a pansy. But, written so humorously, each time he entered a scene my reaction was, "Oh geez, what ailment now." Mr. Hartwright was a sleuthing superstar, and since he predates Sherlock Holmes, I see a lot of similarity between the two, and can't help but wonder if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based his character on Mr Hartwright. The team of Count Fosco and Percival Glyde were deeply written and their greed, bombast, and evil were delectable to the last. If anyone has read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet, tell me if I'm wrong to see a striking similarity between Follet's evil duo and Collins' team of Fosco and Glyde. Follet's portrayal of greed and evil fell flat, whereas Collins left you silently rooting for Fosco's escape. There's a few small problems with The Woman in White, but they're perfectly Victorian, yet personal peeves. For example, can a woman swoon from bad news and take months to recover? Can a person die from a broken heart? Small issues in a such a tightly woven story.

The Woman in White is a great mystery that kept me turning pages. I award 5 stars to less than 10% of the books I read, and Wilkie Collins' met that rarified degree. I liked the good characters, disliked the bad ones, and couldn't predict the ending until I got there; it's as simple as that.

Best lines about women:
1. Women can resist a man's love, a man's fame, a man's personal appearance, and a man's money; but they cannot resist a man's tongue, when he knows how to talk to them. Miriam's diary (p. 258)
2. "Human ingenuity, my friend, has hitherto only discovered two ways in which a man can manage a woman. One way is to knock her down--a method largely adopted by the brutal lower orders of the people, but utterly abhorrent to the refined and educated classes above them. The other way (much longer, much more difficult, but, in the end, not less certain) is never to accept a provocation at a woman's hands. It holds with animals, it holds with children, and it holds with women, who are nothing but children grown up." Evil Fosco (p.327)
3. "Where, in the history of the world, has a man of my order ever been found without a woman in the background, self-immolated on the altar of his life?" Evil Fosco (p. 629)

New words: frouzy, trumpery, glutinous
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
November 30, 2018
“This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.”

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Walter Hartright, his name is a tip off regarding his character, is walking down the street, his mind absorbed with his own problems, when suddenly:

”In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop by the touch of a hand laid lightly and suddenly on my shoulder from behind me. I turned on the instant, with my fingers tightening round the handle of my stick. There, in the middle of the broad, bright high-road – there, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven – stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments, her face bent in grave inquiry on mine, her hand pointing to the dark cloud over London, as I faced her. I was far too seriously startled by the suddenness with which this extraordinary apparition stood before me, in the dead of night and in that lonely place, to ask what she wanted. The strange woman spoke first.

‘Is that the road to London?’”

A damsel in distress is irresistible to most men, but impossible to ignore for men of good character. Hartright is still reeling from her ghostly appearance out of the gloom and dark of night, made more dramatic by her pale apparel. Before he can assemble his thoughts, she is in a carriage being spirited away. Men appear quickly behind her, whom he soon learns are chasing her. Hartright makes every effort to catch up with her to offer her further assistance, but does not find her.

”She has escaped from my asylum.”

Hartright is left with a mystery, but will soon discover that this mystery will become an obsession as the woman in white proves inexplicably to be tied to the woman he will fall in love with. He takes a job as a drawing master, instructing two half sisters as different as night and day. One is fair, and one is dark. One is pretty, and one is...well...unattractive. The word ugly is actually used, but once I learn of Marian Halcombe’s character, it is impossible to associate such a hideous word to such a lovely person.

Marian is brave, brilliant, and resourceful. In my opinion, one of the most interesting and fascinating women to appear in a Victorian novel. She becomes the pillar of strength for her sister, as well as for Hartright, as they are inescapably bound together against the machinations of men intent upon their destruction. Marian, we soon learn, can hold her own. “Any woman who is sure of her own wits, is a match, at any time, for a man who is not sure of his own temper.”

Hartright, of course, falls in love with Laura Fairlie, the fair and beautiful one, an heiress, an orphan, a woman in need of protecting. Unfortunately, fate has conspired against them. She is promised to another one, the odious Sir Percival Glyde. Glyde is in serious financial trouble and needs her fortune to keep his creditors from dismantling his estate brick by brick. His closest friend is an Italian named Count Fosco, who conspires with him in a most insidious plot to take everything from Laura including, quite possibly, her own life.

 photo Count20Fosco_zps2lamsido.jpg
Count “Never Missed a Meal” Fosco

I am a bit disappointed in Hartright. Laura is certainly in need of a white knight, but Marian would have been a woman to build a life with. He does love and respect Marian, but never sees her as a potential mate, even after he discovers that Laura will soon be unattainable. It is only a small disappointment. We all see ourselves from a very young age married to someone beautiful or handsome. Hartright, whose heart is always in the right place, is attracted to Laura’s beauty, but also to her vulnerability. Marian is neither pretty nor is she helpless.

The twist and turns to the plot are wonderfully revealed. This is considered one of the first detective novels as Hartright does apply investigative methods to his research while attempting to thwart the plans of Glyde and Fosco. Wilkie Collins’s background in studying the law also becomes readily apparent at different stages of the novel. The writing style is true Victorian style. I must caution you: if you are not a fan of Charles Dickens or Anthony Trollope, you might find this novel difficult.

I read the book mostly late at night with the fireplace crackling and popping next to me. The wind has been blowing steadily the last few days, and as it moved along the gutters and through the bushes outside my window, it created sounds that made me snuggle deeper into my reading chair and feel as much as possible as if I were in England in the 1850s.

Collins does explore the idea of women’s rights. The law does not protect their rights in near the same fashion that it protects a man’s rights. A woman truly had to live by her wits to keep from being marginalized by the complete and nearly unassailable power of her husband or her father. Marian was a match for any man, but she needed much more than her intelligence to outflank the injustice and the discrimination under which she was forced to live.

Collins was a bohemian who did not believe in marriage. He had no qualms about living with more than one lover at once. I’m sure Dickens marvelled at his ability to pull of this feat in such a conservative time period. They were good friends, Dickens and Collins, but there was a break in their friendship towards the end of Dickens’ life when he was working on the novel The Mystery of Edwin Drood, ”his last and unfinished novel, with its running and hostile allusion to Collins’ The Moonstone.” I can’t think that Dickens was jealous. He was the champion among writers at the time. Collins fell out of favor over time while Dickens’ books soared. Only recently has Collins started to be regarded as one of the important Victorian writers.

 photo Charles20Dickens20family_zpsashhcsd7.jpg
The Dickens Family (and friends) in 1864 - (l-r)Charles Dickens, Jr., Kate Dickens, Charles Dickens, Miss Hogarth, Mary Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Georgina Hogarth

The Woman in White, as promised, does return to the plot, but you’ll have to read the book to discover exactly who she is, why she dresses in white, and what she has to do with the goings on at Limmeridge House? It is a chilling tale that must have elicited more than one gasp from the lips of Victorian women, young and old, as they discovered the truth behind the lies.

I must go now: “My hour for tea is half-past five, and my buttered toast waits for nobody.”

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
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Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
October 12, 2019
"I am thinking," he remarked quietly, "whether I shall add to the disorder in this room by scattering your brains about the fireplace."
Written in 1859-60 by William "Wilkie" Collins and originally published in serial form in Charles Dickens' magazine (Wilkie and Charles were good friends), The Woman in White is considered one of the earliest examples of detective fiction, though it's really just the better part of the second half of this book that has any real detecting going on. Before that you have to wade through star-crossed love and the heroine acting all self-sacrificing (<---very bad idea, at least in this case). There's quite a bit of Victorian melodrama and some eyebrow-raising coincidences, but also some unforgettable characters and some intense suspense in the second half.

Walter Hartright - note the symbolic name - is a young art teacher. One night he helps a distressed lady dressed in white, who was wandering down the street, find a cab.


After she's gone, a couple of men chasing her tell Walter that she's escaped from an asylum. Oops! But the lady in white will soon affect his life more than he can know...

Walter takes a job for a few months teaching art to a couple of gently bred young ladies, Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe. Laura is lovely, quiet and timid (and also, BTW, bears a startling resemblance to the mysterious woman in white); Marian has a singularly unattractive face but a charming, outgoing personality. Guess which one Walter falls for? And Laura loves him too, though they never speak of it, except to Marian.

**some spoilers in the next 3 paragraphs for the first half of the book**

But Laura is an heiress, out of Walter's class, and she's also engaged to a older baronet, as arranged by her family, so she and Walter sadly part ways. He goes on an expedition to South America to let time, distance and adventure heal his wounded heart. She marries her baronet, Sir Percival Glyde, figuring, I guess, that she might as well, and he's always been kind to her.

After the marriage - which quickly goes south since Glyde only married Laura for her money, and has no interest in being nice to her once they're married - strange things start to happen. Glyde wants Laura to sign papers (she still has control of her fortune) but won't show her what she's signing, hiding everything except the line where she's supposed to sign. Even in Victorian times, that's pretty alarming for the lady involved.


Marian, who's living with Laura and Sir Percival, is very concerned for the fragile Laura's wellbeing. And she deeply mistrusts Percival and his other houseguests, the huge, urbane Count Fosco, who acts all affable but has a dangerous glint in his eyes, and his subservient wife, who stands to inherit a chunk of money if Laura dies.

Count Fosco

Things get more complicated from there, but I don't want to spoil it. The actual mystery is a little unlikely but it's an intriguing read. The novel had a few parts that were long-winded and/or sentimental in that distinctively Victorian kind of way, and (also typical of older books) there are a lot of stereotypes. For instance, the women tend to faint or get ill rather than be tough and useful, although Marian is generally an exception to that rule. But the story really sucked me in the further I got into it. Marian and Count Fosco are truly unique and memorable characters. Identity is a recurring theme, for the villains as well as some of the main characters, as are hidden secrets.

I especially liked the quasi-investigative structure of the novel, with narration by multiple characters, each with his or her own distinctive voice and point of view. The kind-hearted, loyal Walter; Marian, writing in her diary; Laura's whiny invalid uncle, who just wants to be left alone and is of no help to Laura in her trials; the prideful Count Fosco, weaving his plans; a couple of servants: all of them get their turn explaining their part of the events in this book. I thought that was really well done. As a lawyer, I found the lawyer's description of marriage settlements particularly interesting, along with the negotiations between him (acting for Laura) and Sir Percival's lawyer. And when he says, and then repeats, "No daughter of mine should have been married to any man alive under such a settlement as I was compelled to make for Laura Fairlie," it was a chilling moment.

Another Uncle Fairlie fail

Wilkie also has a sense of humor, which pops out occasionally. Walter describes Mrs. Vesey, Laura's former governess, so:
Some of us rush through life, and some of us saunter through life. Mrs. Vesey sat through life... A mild, a compliant, an unutterably tranquil and harmless old lady, who never by any chance suggested the idea that she had been actually alive since the hour of her birth. Nature has so much to do in this world, and is engaged in generating such a vast variety of co-existent productions, that she must surely be now and then too flurried and confused to distinguish between the different processes that she is carrying on at the same time. Starting from this point of view, it will always remain my private persuasion that Nature was absorbed in making cabbages when Mrs. Vesey was born, and that the good lady suffered the consequences of a vegetable preoccupation in the mind of the Mother of us all.
Buddy read with the Non-crunchy Cool Classics Pantsless group. Most of the group begged off - they seem to have some sort of aversion to 600+ page Victorian mysteries - but Evgeny, Jeff, Stepheny and maybe one or two others made it through the whole thing with me. Yay team!

Period illustrations are from early editions of The Woman in White.
Profile Image for Henry Avila.
451 reviews3,229 followers
October 3, 2022
Walter Hartright a struggling drawing teacher, is walking at midnight back to Victorian London after visiting his widowed mother and sister at their cottage, in the suburbs to say goodbye, a quiet trip nobody around, the road empty everything's still, not even the leaves on the trees flicker in the blackness, nothing only his moving steps are heard, thinking about a lucrative job in a faraway county of England, that he reluctantly took ( he has a bad feeling about) because his friend Professor Pesca, a dwarf from Italy arranged it. Shock, something touches him out of the darkness... a ghostly, sick looking woman dressed all in white appears from the shadows, impossible this creature cannot be real... it speaks. A story unfolds, a young woman with a secret put in an insane asylum without being insane , a conspiracy to steal not only wealth but identity. Anne Catherick (The Woman in White) strangely resembles Laura Fairlie, one of two young ladies Mr.Hartright has been hired by her rich, unsocial invalid uncle Fredrick Fairlie, to teach watercolor painting, never mind that she and her half-sister Marian Halcombe have no talent, they need something to pass the time. Laura is very pretty, her sister is very intelligent but plain, but both are devoted to each other, a lonely life at Limmeridge House in Cumberland by the sea. Their uncle rarely sees them, quite fearful of his health a sick hypochondriac, ( kind of funny) not a man of feelings. A sudden love between Walter and Laura, ensues, the teacher and the student but her older wiser sister Marian doesn't approve, Laura is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde, 25 years her senior, a gentleman of seemingly good manners and taste a baronet, who her late father insisted she marry (men could do that then). Mr.Hartright is forced to leave the premises early, later traveling to the jungles of Central America to forget but doesn't, by Marian ( a event that she greatly regrets soon, and Laura more so), his three month employment shortened to two, Mr.Fairlie is not happy, why the puzzled man thinks can't people keep their promises anymore? The extremely obese, brilliant and mysterious Count Fosco, an Italian nobleman he says and good friend of Sir Percival, arrives with his wife Eleanor, she is the icy aunt of Laura and sister of Uncle Frederick, without any family affections. The Count loves animals but isn't fond of people, his pets are his best friends birds and white mice, he plays with, they adore him too. The Woman in White, sends an anonymous letter to the miserable Miss Fairlie, the future bride warning her that Glyde is not a good person. Anne is creeping about in the neighborhood, the Count and the Baronet are nervous , why? But the unhappy wedding day comes between Laura and Percival, that nobody wants but Sir Percival, he has a motive not love but wealth, she has money he has none. Predictably the couple travel across Europe, see many fascinating things on their long honeymoon and hate each other...Back in sweet England at the home of Sir Percival's, Blackwater Park, an appropriate name for the estate, in need of repairs the conspiracy goes forward, Laura and Marian are alone to battle him and the Count and his faithful wife, Eleanor the lurking Anne is still floating about, by the dismal lake nearby, something has to give soon. A wonderful novel from long ago, quite a mystery to be unraveled and one of the first written, still a superb read for fans of the genre, make that great literature.
Profile Image for Bionic Jean.
1,227 reviews1,027 followers
February 20, 2023
The Woman in White is an extraordinary book. It captivated the reading public of the time, and in parts is almost as breathlessly mesmerising and gripping to read now. Wilkie Collins professed the “old-fashioned” idea, that “the primary object of a work of fiction should be to tell a story”, and what a story he has given us here!

Any list of “the greatest novels of all time” will probably feature this one. When it was first published, it wowed the reading public, and manufacturers got on the bandwagon, creating “Woman in White” perfume and “Woman in White” cloaks and bonnets. There were “Woman in White” waltzes and quadrilles displayed in music-shops. “Walter” became a fashionable name for babies, and the names of other characters in the novel became popular too. Cats were named “Fosco” and instantly looked more sinister in their owners’ eyes. The poet Edward FitzGerald even named his boat, “Marian Halcombe”. It can truly be said that this novel was a sensation.

It is quite apt then, that The Woman in White is generally regarded as the first of the Victorian “sensation” novels. Not only did it establish a new genre, arising from melodramatic novels, gothic and romantic novels, and drawing on “penny dreadfuls” and fictionalised criminal biographies, but it immediately gave rise to many imitators. No longer would gruesome and spectacular crimes only happen in fantastic Medieval castles, but behind the doors of ordinary domestic environments. Virtuous women would still be menaced by dastardly cads, but the element of realism was key. Mrs Henry Wood’s “East Lynne” was published the next year in 1861, and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s “Lady Audley’s Secret”, the year after (1862). And to top all this, The Woman in White is also considered to be among the first mystery novels.

Yet in 1860, at the time of publication, Wilkie Collins was still very much in the shadow of Charles Dickens.

Back in April 1852, the twenty-seven year old Wilkie Collins had already turned his back on convention. His father wanted him to become a clergyman, but after some agonising, Wilkie Collins went a different way, and trained to become a barrister. He completed his legal studies and was called to the bar in 1851, but never formally practised, instead deciding to become a writer. Wilkie Collins then began writing for his friend Charles Dickens’s weekly magazine, “Household Words”. Dickens, then forty years of age, was by now a literary phenomenon, with his fingers in lots of pies. Although Dickens himself earned over a thousand pounds per annum from his work on the magazine, Wilkie Collins was initially paid by the column. Four years later, in September 1856, he finally became a staff writer who would be paid the standard rate of five guineas per week. But he was still one of many in Dickens’s “stable”.

For Victorian readers, to read a novel in serial form was the norm, and quite a few of these serials have since become classic novels. Other major Victorian writers who also had their novels printed in serial form first, in Dickens’s magazines “Household Words” and “All the Year Round”, include Elizabeth Gaskell and Anthony Trollope. In fact The Woman in White was the very first novel to be published in Charles Dickens’s brand new weekly magazine “All the Year Round”, between 1859 and 1860.

That very first weekly issue contained the concluding installment of Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities” followed immediately by the opening installment of a new novel with no author credited, a sensational “novel-with-a-secret”, which was called The Woman in White. Sales immediately increased! Holding back the author’s name may seem incredible to us now, but Charles Dickens was very strict that no authors in his magazines were ever named, so that he could keep them as his “staff writers”. Incidentally, a later issue during the run of The Woman in White, also has the start of “Framley Parsonage” and “East Lynne”. What a treasure trove these Victorian readers had in their magazines!

Yet just two months after serialisation had started, Dickens was calling The Woman in White “masterly”, and later, Prince Albert admired it so much that he sent copies of the novel as gifts. Charles Dickens began writing his own sensation novel just months later, called “Great Expectations”. Both novels are thrilling even now, with a strong story line, gothic feel and complex plot. Both dealt with secrets, past and present, questions and doubts about identity and social position. Both made use of the ideas of suspect wills, forged documents, inheritances, secret marriages, and illegitimacy; themes very much in flux in the changing society in the Victorian era.

What makes these novels so appealing to us now is that they are both exciting page-turners, with suspenseful mystery at their heart, and twists a-plenty. The Woman in White is a complex tale, with an unusual narrative structure. It is told by several narrators, and different forms, either as reported action, or diaries, or letters. In a way it resembles an epistolary novel, as each narrator has a distinct narrative voice. They form a chain of “witness” statements which gradually unravel a cunning conspiracy by Switching between the different and diverse viewpoints, adds interest and depth to the story. We begin to wonder who is to be trusted, and who might be an unreliable narrator. We also see how some characters are vague, or naive, others are driven and passionate, yet others again are vain, or dissembling.

Wilkie Collins is very much in the driving seat throughout this novel, carefully rationing out little pieces of the jigsaw, and disclosing the secret like a series of Russian dolls. He also manipulates our feelings, controlling who we think we trust. The entire novel is deviously plotted. The original structure was geared towards a “cliffhanger” at the end of each installment, leaving us wanting more. Oddly though, reading in the novel form we now have available, this is not as evident.

Dickens’s serialised installments could all be chopped up neatly into between three and five chapters, but that was impossible with The Woman in White. The narratives varied in length from one page to, surprisingly, two hundred. Some are divided into parts, and sometimes an installment contained parts of one and part of another. One narrator even returns later. The only choice was to have a completely new structure for the novel itself: in three Epochs rather than Parts, and chapters of similar lengths sweeping across the original divisions completely independently. The chapter names are also slightly different, for instance this magnificent original narrative title:

“The Narrative of Isidor Ottavio Baldassare Fosco. Count of the Holy Roman Empire. Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Brazen Crown. Perpetual Archmaster of the Rosicrucian Masons of Mesopotamia. Attached, in Honorary Capacities, to Societies Musical, Societies Medical, Societies Philosophical, and Societies General Benevolent, Throughout Europe & & &”

has, disappointingly in the novel version, been reduced to merely:

“The Story Continued by Isidor, Ottavio, Baldassare, Fosco”

which hardly conjures up the enormous bombast and swagger of the character, whom I can imagine signing his name and illustrious titles with a satisfyingly sweeping flourish of his quill pen. These details so reminiscent of Dickens are sadly lost in most modern editions. Also, the suspense of the former endings of each installment are also lost, or rather subsumed into part of the action, but the whole flows just as well, and is just as addictive.

Wilkie Collins clearly understood people very well. He has created a wealth of wonderful characters. There is the faithful and angelic Laura Fairlie, the sinister, secretive Percival Glyde; there is her impossible uncle, the effete connoisseur of the Arts, Frederick Fairlee, source of much of the humour in this book, with his monumental selfishness and exaggerated hypochondria. There is of course the wonderful Count Fosco, charismatic and cunning, with his cockatoo, his canary-birds, and his pet white mice, who run over his immense body, partnered by his overly dutiful, malevolently vindictive wife. There is at least one young protagonist for Wilkie Collins’s readers to identify with in Walter Hartright, a young man with a strong sense of justice. Another is the intelligent, and resourceful Marian Halcombe, one of his most powerful creations.

Some consider that with this mannish, eloquent character, Collins was attempting to create a positive portrayal of a lesbian woman, within the constraints of the time. This is possible, given Collins’s admiration of women, but it is all down to interpretation and subtext. Collins attacked middle-class hypocrisy, perhaps because he was himself so bohemian. Outwardly, he was a member of the Establishment. He belonged to the “Garrick Club” and to all outward appearances was a typical Victorian gentleman.

Wilkie Collins lived respectably enough with his mother for many years, whilst setting up his mistress, Caroline Graves, in a house nearby. But in 1858, defying public opinion, and much to Dickens’s disapproval, Collins began living with Caroline and her daughter Harriet. Charles Dickens too, was very much the family man in public. In fact although he and Collins both professed to be Christians, they had extraordinary lifestyles, and their views of marriage were very different from each other, for such close friends. Although we know of Dickens’s long-term relationship with Nelly Ternan, as a man of propriety, he had attempted to keep this a closely guarded secret.

Caroline kept a small shop nearby Collins’s home. She had married young, had a child, and been widowed. Wilkie Collins treated Harriet, whom he called Carrie, as his own daughter, and helped to pay for her education. The two stayed together for most of their lives although he refused to marry her as he disliked the institution of marriage. Extraordinarily for the time, Wilkie Collins also had another mistress, the working-class Martha Rudd, by whom he had three children, in a house just a few streets away.

The second installment of The Woman in White begins very melodramatically, to modern eyes, with a young man, Walter Hartright meeting a strange woman dressed all in white, in the mist. This dramatic meeting was rumoured to be how he first met Caroline Graves, on a night-time walk over Hampstead Heath. In The Woman in White Walter stops, every drop of blood in his body frozen still by “the touch of a hand laid lightly and suddenly” upon his shoulder. For us, for the first time, we meet the mysterious Anne Catherick, whom we know as The Woman in White.

But I shall not tell the story here. There are plenty of places where you can read a synopsis, should you want to, but wouldn’t that spoil all the twists?

After serialisation, The Woman in White was published in novel form in 1860, and also that year produced on stage, where it was a sensation. When serialised works from his magazines were published in novel form, or on stage, Dickens allowed the advertising to specifically name the authors of the novels. The poster, which was designed for booksellers’ windows for The Woman in White was a woodcut by Frederick Walker, and at last Wilkie Collins could have his name attributed to the novel.

The public loved The Woman in White, but contemporary critics were generally hostile. Now both critics and readers regard either this, or “The Moonstone” as his best novel, and it was certainly his own favourite. But at the time, he was very much viewed as an adjunct to Dickens, the two having collaborated on several articles and stories every year. 1857 had been a particularly fruitful year for the two, with the writing of three major works and the production of the play “The Frozen Deep”. Most recently Charles Dickens’s “The Haunted House” had included both authors, with Dickens’s stories framing stories by five others.

Interestingly, Dickens’s next novel was to be “Great Expectations”, the most gothic of all his novels. The two writers were clearly writing very closely together, and producing a very similar feel to their works. In fact reading parts of this, Dickens’s influence seems very clear at some points, especially in a few of the cameo roles. Wilkie Collins had a wry touch which was all his own, but some humorous passages jump out as being Charles Dickens’s irrepressible silliness. Also sometimes the sarcasm (for instance of Marian Halcombe) is very reminiscent of Dickens.

In 1862, the split finally came. Wilkie Collins resigned from Dickens’s staff, and the separation of Dickens’s and Collins’s identities as writers became more defined. Wilkie Collins was not to work with Dickens again until the pair collaborated on “No Thoroughfare” for the 1867 Christmas edition of the magazine. Immediately after this story came the first installment of “The Moonstone” in serial form, the novel that would finally establish Wilkie Collins’s reputation.

However he was in poor health. He continued to suffer from gout, and it now especially affected his eyes. Within a year, the laudanum he was taking for his continual gout became a serious problem.

Collins said of his early days with Dickens, “We saw each other every day, and were as fond of each other as men could be.” Wilkie Collins certainly suffered after the death of Charles Dickens in 1870. Some view Wilkie Collins as a draining influence on Charles Dickens, and it has even been suggested that the strain of mentoring Collins contributed to Dickens’s death. Perhaps the consequent loss of Dickens as both a friend and a literary mentor, partly caused Collins’s increased dependence upon laudanum. He certainly never bettered the novels he published in the 1860s.

Wilkie Collins’s later novels contained more social commentary, and were not as sensational. This one and “The Moonstone” represent the best, the most intriguing, and most enduring of his career. With their themes of jealousy, murder and adultery, these thrilling tales are as electrifying, horrific, suspenseful, and intricately plotted as any Victorian classics you are likely to read.
Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,179 reviews9,236 followers
May 22, 2018
Laura Fairlie’s journal – June 6th, 1855

This morning in the garden I sketched a small flower and was overcome with exhaustion. I retired to my room, not before kissing my dearest darling Marian, and lay down upon my sofa for five hours. What a day! In the evening I played upon the piano, a quite difficult piece, which caused me to have to retire early and sleep for eighteen hours, once my maid Fannie undressed me and stroked my eyebrows. Usually Fannie from excess of sentimental attachment will gently rain down white rose petals upon my counterpaine as I fall asleep to infuse my dreams with sweetness. Alas she could not do that this evening as she was required to assist the scullery undermaid in clearing the waterpond of poisonous snails, so I slept but fitfully. Marian joined me as usual.

Laura Fairlie’s journal – June 7th.

A man smiled at me and I became very ill.

Marian Halcombe’s journal – June 8th.

As is universally understood, women are irrational creatures much given to frivolous whim and it is a situation earnestly to be desired that they be closely commanded by their menfolk, who at all times understand their best interests better than they themselves. I believe Sir Percival is trying to kill me, but that, as I have intimated, is his prerogative. I may mention that Sir Percival is the husband of my half-sister sweet kind innocent trusting pure lovely slenderwaisted Laura.
A man may beat a dog to tame it, and that is only just. Sometimes, I confess, I dare to think that a woman is better than a dog in the eyes of Our Maker.

The scullery undermaid has died from something, I know not what.

Marian Halcombe’s journal – June 9th.

It is the only joy left to me that I should be allowed each night to clasp to my bosom this divine creature my half sister Laura and sleep with her in my arms which can and on occasion does produce a cramp in both arms that will not dissipate all the following morning however vigorously I swing my limbs around. But I say a cheap price to pay for such infinitude of bliss. Today her husband shot both of Laura’s pet dachsunds, claiming an accident whilst cleaning his pistols. I am of a different opinion as I have detected that they were shot five and forty minutes apart. There can surely not have been two identical accidents whilst cleaning pistols on one morning. I simply cannot believe it. I believe Sir Percival wishes to shut us up in an asylum. As we look exactly like two existing patients in a private asylum in north London, this will probably happen on Tuesday of next week.

Marian Halcombe’s journal – July 11th

From my leafy vantage point I could see the clearly defined portly form of Count Fosco in the fallacious quivering moonlight. He had crept up to sweet kind innocent trusting pure lovely slenderwaisted Laura’s bedroom window and was engaged in spying upon her, for obscure motives. There he saw the young tender limbs of my own heavenly Laura clenching to her bedroom door frame as she leaned precariously out of her room in order best to overhear her lawful husband Sir Percival’s conversation, her husband in name only, who was, at that precise moment, in the very act of eavesdropping on me to discover how much I knew of his plan to kill me by means of an accident whilst cleaning his pistols.

Laura Fairlie’s journal – July 12th.

My husband addressed me in these terms :

"Many a fine brown egg must be destroyed to make one omelette!"
"Sir, what omelette is that? Make your meaning plain."
"What omelette, madam? Why, I – I am the omelette!"

Laura Fairlie’s journal – July 17th

Today I died.
Profile Image for karen.
3,976 reviews170k followers
August 20, 2018
this is a weighty relic of a book. it's pretty enjoyable, just don't expect any surprises, unless you have missed the last 20 years of police procedurals on the television set. i'm sure in its day it was chock full of surprises, but i have to shudder at the contrivance of characters talking aloud to themselves while unknown to them, people hide in cupboards or whatnot, overhearing exactly the information they are most desirous of. it does make me yearn for these times when it seems pulling a con was child's play: no paper trails, no integrity of the postal service... so much trust.. so much weakness... in this society, i would be some kind of pirate queen, stealing identities at will, capturing heiresses, forging signatures.. and i would never, ever, make private, compromising, confessions in my chamber.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Sean Barrs .
1,109 reviews44.3k followers
May 20, 2018
The Woman in White promises so much and delivers very little.

The first hundred pages of the book are gripping and intense. Wilkie Collins begins with an atmospheric mystery that is exciting and almost haunting. I really wanted to know all the secrets the story had to offer.

So even when the book began to grow a little dull around the middle I carried on reading because I hoped that the dryness would be worth it, my patience was bound to be rewarded. (I was so terribly mistaken.) The big reveal at the end is so ridiculously anti-climactic that I actually laughed. That’s what I had been waiting for all this time?

For a book like this, one that is driven by the plot rather than the characters, it is such a major downfall. The real problem this story had is its pacing. There is simply too much middle where the story just doesn't go anywhere and the characters fret over the same facts but get no closer to understanding what any of it means. I grew bored of the endless speculation and marriage politics. I wanted something to happen beyond the seemingly endless conversation that held no substance.

And the entire situation was agony. It was just so frustrating! It simply did not need to happen whatsoever and was predictable to a fault. When you get into bed with a nasty person it’s hardly surprising that your life turns to shit; yet, for the characters it came as a drastic shock. Wake up! Look at the real world! Surely, surely, nobody would be that stupid?

I gave up caring. It was a relief to finish.
Profile Image for Fabian.
940 reviews1,546 followers
October 22, 2020
This is an obvious precursor to myriad crime dramas & the "sensationalist novel."

I found it long but very rewarding. 600+ pages of different POV's (a novel concept then, but now widely utilized); two concrete settings; only five main characters (perhaps not more than 15 in all)... and it is all choreographed so beautifully. The settings are spooky; the motives of characters, although well known from the very start and from the intense descriptions throughout, still manage to surprise. No matter that The Secret deals with money & family skeletons-in-the-closet... & a bunch of classicist European stuff. All the elements I adore are here. It's Gothic, & the writer is like some British Hawthorne (Well at least I think so: & less like his peer, Charles Dickens*).

No matter that bad guys get what they deserve in the end... they arrive at oh so unconventional ends. Really! And the pacing is exactly what a serial novel of this magnitude would require it to endure. I kept at it... found it invigorating, elegant, and haunting.

*This was published in the middle of the 19th century, and along with one of Dicken's serialized masterpieces, this one also ran! Lucky short-living Londoners.
Profile Image for Hannah Greendale.
696 reviews3,263 followers
January 31, 2018
Click here to watch a video review of this book on my channel, From Beginning to Bookend.

A mysterious tale spun by a writer with a penchant for drama and a lawyer's practicality. The Woman in White will tickle readers who enjoy books where the truth lies hidden beneath the biases of characters who deliver their version of the story through a first-person narrative.
Profile Image for Piyangie.
510 reviews390 followers
August 19, 2022
This is one of the greatest books I have read in my life. The book is my first Wilkie Collins and I’m really glad to have finally come across him, for he has won a place as one of my favourite classic authors. Collin’s writing is admirably rich with poetic phrases and a good flare for vocabulary. Although his prose is a little long winding, he nevertheless has well managed to keep the reader’s attention on the story by his amazing ability at storytelling. There is also a cinematic quality to his writing. The events such as the first meeting between Walter Hartright and the woman in white, the first instance a vague resemblance between woman in white and Laura Fairlie comes to Walter’s mind when she walks on the terrace in the illumination of the moon, Marian’s brave conduct of climbing over the roof to listen to the hideous plan of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde, Laura’s subsequent abduction and false imprisonment in the Asylum under the false guise of Anne Catherick, the meeting of Laura and Walter over Laura’s false grave, the fire in the vestry where Sir Percival was trapped and rescue efforts being taken by Walter Hartright, the impatient ride Walter takes to meet Count Fosco, were described in such a manner that it was as if you are seeing them rather than reading of them.

A novelty I experienced while reading this great book was Collin’s mastery in dominating over your mental faculties. Normally when I read a book, it engages with my own mental interpretations as I read along. But the reading experience of this book was so different. Collins never allowed my own mental interpretations to come into the light. He held them tight to his story and convincingly too, that I was unable to wander on my own.

“The story here presented will be told in 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”. This phrase from the preamble sets the pace for the story justifying the use of several narrators to tell it – their reliability varying in degree. This is yet another new experience for me, hearing the story from so many different narrators. And I felt it is a refreshing method to have the story told through different persons, given the length of the book. This served two purposes; one was avoiding the reader from being bored with the story and the other is to avoid it being biased.

There were a hero and a heroine in the characters of Walter Hartright and Marian Halcombe. Their struggle to bring justice to Laura Fairlie, their dear beloved, who was the victim of a most horrendous crime, the courageous and perilous journey both of them, especially Walter takes on, to achieve this end certainly reflects the opening phrase of the preamble when it was said “This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve”. I liked these two characters immensely and was connected with them instantly. I was with them through every step of the way of their difficult and dangerous journey collecting the necessary evidence to bring justice to a wronged woman. I also liked the character of Laura, the young innocent victim, who bore such vile cruelty with a calm resolution of her own. Then there are the villains: Sir Percival Glyde – an epitome of brutality and Count Fosco – the most sinister character that I have thus far come across with his cold, calculating, and brilliant brain. All these dark and dear characters contributed to the plot of the story to make it one of the best classic stories I have ever read. The book which is a pioneer in the sensational novel was a great success in its time and I believe still is which in itself accounts for its greatness.

I simply loved the book. Reading it was such a pleasurable experience. 5 full stars and a place among my favourite-classic shelf is what I can offer in return for so satisfying me.
Profile Image for Anne.
3,868 reviews69.2k followers
November 9, 2022
This is my second time around with The Woman in White and I think my first impression was basically the same as this one.
The first 1/3 of the book is boring as hell. It's full-up with a lot of Walter pining for Laura, Laura crying into her handkerchief, and Marian pushing everyone into doing the right thing.
It's not only a bunch of class nonsense that separate our lovers, but it's chock full of silliness like people suffering a shock and nearly dying from it, or keeping insane promises to dead parents to their own detriment. <--no parent wants that!
It was overdramatic bullshit and it made it very hard for me to stick with the story.


The middle of the book kind of picks up the pace. You aren’t biting your nails or anything, but you are fully involved with the drama.
Better. Much better.


The last part of the book makes it all worthwhile. Colins does not skimp on doling out the secrets or wrapping up loose ends. You find out not only whodunnit but why they dunnit.
You also get a fantastic ending for these characters that you’ve been on an emotional roller coaster with for such a long time. Well done, sir.


This was serialized in a newspaper.


Which means two things to me. One, this was a book made for the sweaty peasants, so it has a good chance of being quite a bit more fun than whatever shit was published for the intellectuals of the day.


Two, it's going to read like a television series instead of a movie. In other words, the story is going to be less concise because it was meant to last longer and therefore will ramble a bit to pump up the page count.
Prepare yourself accordingly.


Bottom line for me is that if you can make it through the really dull bits in the beginning, you'll probably really like the way Collins manages to bring everything full circle and wrap it up.
However, even with a well-narrated audiobook, I had to stop after a few hours of this and go listen to a trashy romance novel because I was just drifting off due to boredom. I eventually made myself sort of gut it out, and I'm glad I did, but I can honestly see why several of the people I've talked to never managed to finish this one. I'm giving it 4 stars but that's an overall grade that hinges on the last half being very well done. You really have to knuckle down and get ready to slog through a lot of dull garbage on the front half to get to the payoff.
I know that this one is more well known, but I actually thought Moonstone was a better overall book.

April 7, 2018
«Η γυναίκα με τα άσπρα» γράφτηκε το 1850 και θεωρείται το πρώτο βαθιά αισθηματικό λογοτεχνικό έργο μυστηρίου και αγωνίας.

Είναι ένας θησαυρός Βικτωριανής κουλτούρας με άψογη και πρωτότυπη τεχνοτροπία γραφής.

Άριστα δομημένοι χαρακτήρες, κοινωνικές συνθήκες και τρόποι συμπεριφοράς, κρυμμένα κίνητρα, άθλιοι ήρωες, ηθικές, εκκεντρικές και καθόλου αφελείς ηρωίδες.
Αυτά είναι τα κύρια συστατικά με τα οποία ο συγγραφέας ξεκινάει να διαμορφώνει τη δημιουργία του.

Η μεγαλοφυΐα και η ικανότητα του συντελούν στην εκπληκτική εξέλιξη και πλοκή προσώπων και γεγονότων για ένα αποτέλεσμα που ανατρέπεται συμπερασματικά ως την τελευταία σελίδα.

Δεν χρειάζεται να φανταστείς τους χαρακτήρες, την οπτική τους παρουσία, τα ενδότερα πνευματικά και ψυχικά τους στοιχεία, ούτε καν τους τόπους, τα μέρη, τους χώρους που διαδραματίζονται όλα.
Η περιγραφική του πένα σου αποκαλύπτει εξαιρετικά και σε πραγματικό χρόνο ό,τι μπορείς ή δεν μπορείς να φανταστείς.
Το στυλ του ξεκάθαρο, σαφές, συνοπτικό, χωρίς υπερβολικές καταγραφές, εύκολο και τρομερά ενδιαφέρον.
Προσελκύει εθιστικά την ανάγνωση και τραβάει όλο και πιο βαθιά σε αγωνία και απρόσμενες αποκαλύψεις απο το ένα κεφάλαιο στο άλλο.
Διατηρώντας παράλληλα χαρακτήρες και πλοκή σε μια ουσιαστική ροή χωρίς σύγχυση.

Τα βικτωριανά μυθιστορήματα φημίζονται για την εξέλιξη των χαρακτήρων τους και το συγκεκριμένο δεν αποτελεί εξαίρεση, αποτελεί μια εκπληκτική πορεία δράσης όπου τα φαινόμενα πάντα απατούν και ανατρέπουν δεδομένα που ίσως να ήταν αυτονόητα.

Πολλοί αφηγητές που πήραν μέρος στην ιστορία μυστηρίου και αγάπης εξιστορούν ο καθένας απο την δική του οπτική γωνία πως βίωσαν τις καταστάσεις σε προσωπικό και κοινωνικό επίπεδο.

Οι αφηγήσεις τους δεν είναι σε σωστή χρονική σειρά πάνω στην πραγματική ιστορία, μα ειναι διαδοχικές απο πρόσωπο σε πρόσωπο κι αυτό ειναι ενα ακόμη στοιχείο μη αναρρωτικής αγωνίας.

Έχουν περάσει 168 χρόνια απο τη στιγμή που δημοσιεύτηκε κι όμως, αυτό το τεράστιο χρονικό διάστημα δεν είναι πουθενά αποτρεπτικό.

Η βικτωριανή εποχή ενισχύει τους σπουδαίους χαρακτήρες οι οποίοι με τη σειρά τους είναι τόσο πραγματικοί που μπαίνουν σε συγκριτικά με ανθρώπους της σημερινής εποχής.

Δεν θα αναφερθώ στην ιστορία του βιβλίου, αυτό πρέπει να το βιώσει ο κάθε αναγνώστης ως προσωπική εμπειρία.
Ωστόσο απο τους ήρωες ξεχώρισα και θαύμασα την προσωπικότητα του Κόμη Φόσκο.
Πόσο ιδιοφυής πρέπει να είσαι για να χτίσεις έναν τέτοιο πρωταγωνιστή.
Ο Φόσκο είναι ένας κακοποιός που αποτελεί μια απο τις πιο θαυμάσιες λογοτεχνικές δημιουργίες.
Μια μάζα αντιφάσεων ουσιαστικά και μεταφορικά.
Ένας άψογος ραδιούργος, αριστοκρατικά τοποθετημένος στην αστική τάξη που τον ενισχύει σε κάθε επιδίωξη του.
Ο Κόμης Φόσκο, ένας άνδρας με αξέχαστη φυσιογνωμία, οξυμένη αντίληψη, πνευματώδης, καταρτισμένος, θύτης ανηλεής και θύμα ερωτικής κρίσης.
Βρίσκεται πάντα ενα βήμα μπροστά απο τις ενέργειες των ηρώων και φαινομενικά μπορεί να ειναι δισυπόστατος σε ψυχή και σώμα.

Είναι ο κακός που αγάπησα, ο αδυσώπητος και σκληρός τυχοδιώκτης που λάτρεψα. Πραγματικά μέχρι το τέλος δεν κατάφερα να τον μισή��ω όσο κι αν προσπάθησα.
Σε αντίθεση με τους καλούς χαρακτήρες που με άφησαν συναισθηματικά αδιάφορη.

Σε ολόκληρο το βιβλίο - δεν παίζει κανεναν απολύτως ρόλο ο όγκος των σελίδων - ξέρουμε πως συμβαίνει κάτι πολύ κακό... μα σε αντίθεση με τα παραδοσιακά μυστήρια των βιβλίων που αναζητάμε τον ένοχο, εδώ έως το τέλος ψάχνουμε όχι μόνο το ποιος το έκανε, μα και το «τι έκανε».

Ένα διαβολικό παραμύθι με τραγικές εξελίξεις που ακούγεται απο διάφορες και διαφορετικές φωνές.

Μια κλασική αναγνωστική εμπειρία, μια μαρτυρία χτισμένη με αγάπη, φιλία, καλές και κακές οικογενειακές σχέσεις, τρόμο, μυστήριο, προδοσία, ψυχολογικά παιχνίδια, πίστη, συμπόνοια και έντονη γοτθική αίσθηση. Απόλυτα ισορροπημένα και εναλλασσόμενα ώστε να μη φθείρονται μέχρι τέλους.

Το απόλαυσα, το θαύμασα. Με αντάμειψε, χαρίζοντας μου πολλά περισσότερα απο ό,τι μπορεί να υποσχεθεί ένα μυθιστορημα.

Χρόνια Πολλά!!!

Καλή ανάγνωση.
Πολλούς ασπασμούς.

Profile Image for Valeriu Gherghel.
Author 6 books1,222 followers
November 23, 2022
3, 5.

Citit pe la 15-16 ani, romanul lui Collins are mari șanse să intre în biblioteca afectivă a oricărui cititor. Din păcate, dacă-l citești mai tîrziu, observi, înainte de orice, că are 620 de pagini. Și asta te intimidează...

Observi că Anne Catherick (Femeia în alb) și Laura sînt niște ființe mult prea gingașe și sensibile (sînt surori vitrege și asta ar putea explica inclinația lor nevrotică), dar că Marian Halcombe (și ea soră vitregă cu Laura) nu prea seamănă cu ele: nu e „slabă la minte” ca Anne și nici hipersensibilă și anxioasă ca Laura. În chip ciudat, aceste eminente virtuți sînt, cum să zic?, diminuate de chipul ei neatrăgător:

„Niciodată vechea zicală că natura nu poate greşi n-a fost mai categoric contrazisă, niciodată aspectul promiţător al unei înfăţişări frumoase n-a fost mai straniu şi mai uimitor dezminţit... Această doamnă avea un obraz aproape negricios, iar puful negru de deasupra buzei superioare era aproape o mustaţă etc.”.

Mai observi că ogarul Laurei îi simte imediat pe bărbații dubioși și latră la ei (la sir Percival Glyde, în primul rînd), dar dă din coadă și se veselește în fața unui bărbat onest, moral și muncitor. Mă refer, firește, la întreprinzătorul Walter Hartright, prof de desen și om cu indiscutabile abilități de detectiv: mînuiește cu eleganță bîta și, cînd e urmărit de răufăcători, are o viteză de alergare neobișnuită.

Observi, în plus, că Providența îi mîngîie pe cei buni și-i pedepsește exemplar pe cei răi. Ea rezolvă partea murdară a afacerii: abjectul sir Percival Glyde, baronet (noblețea lui e falsă), moare în incendiul din sacristia bisericii din Welmingham, iar sinistrul conte Fosco, ajuns în Paris, e înjunghiat (de un asasin plătit, cu o cicatrice de rău augur pe față) și aruncat în Sena.

La sfîrșit, Walter se căsătorește cu Laura, iar Marian decide să rămînă pe veci cu ei și să-și educe nepotul / nepoții cu devotamentul cunoscut și apreciat de toți. Ea știe din capul locului că nu va avea noroc la bărbați (of, mustața!) și alege să-și sacrifice energia și spiritul de inițiativă în serviciul tinerei familii: „După tot ce am suferit împreună toţi trei - a spus ea -, între noi nu mai poate exista despărţire, pînă la despărţirea din urmă. Walter, inima şi fericirea mea sînt alături de Laura şi de tine”. Am putea vorbi de un ménage à trois...

Oare Wilkie Collins ignora adevărul verificat de experiență că pentru orice femeie există întotdeauna cel puțin un bărbat care o așteaptă? Preceptul e valabil, desigur, și în cazul bărbaților...

P. S. Necesitatea nu e, vai, întotdeauna binevoitoare, întrucît Anne Catherick, înspăimîntată de Fosco, face un atac de cord în momentul cel mai nepotrivit pentru criminal. Ar trebui să moară pe 26 iulie, dar moare - în ciuda contelui - pe 25. Vorba lui Cehov: Blestem!

P. P. S. Neîndoios, personajul cel mai interesant din toată povestea rămîne Marian Halcombe. Așadar, are dreptate criticul John Sutherland. Ar merita o soartă mai bună :)
Profile Image for Dem.
1,184 reviews1,080 followers
April 9, 2017

What took me so long to read this wonderful suspenseful and well written classic? I rarely read mysteries and I was really surprised to find that a book first published in 1859 could be so chilling and mysterious and be as fresh and exciting today as it was in 1859

I started reading the book as part of a group read and the idea was to read the novel as it was originally published in weekly serial format and while I did try to stick with the rules I am afraid my curiosity and willpower got the better of me and I just could not put down this compelling and extremely well written mystery. So my apologies to the group for not sticking with the format of reading but grateful for the push to read a book that I might otherwise have missed out on.

" A mysterious figure, a woman in white, appears out of nowhere on a London street at midnight running away from someone or something and in a distressed state, she meets Walter Hartright, an a teacher of Art and little does he know but this mysterious lady will haunt him and change the course of his life.

Manor Houses, ghostly figures by gravesides, mysterious letters and asylums and devious characters are what make this such a compelling read. The story is narrated by several different characters, all portraying their their own experiences. The book is just under 700 pages and is quite a read and yet the pacing and plot development is extremely well thought out. I downloaded the book on my kindle but was informed by a friend that there existed an absolutely amazing audio version narrated by Josephine Bailey and Simon Prebble and while I was skeptical that my interest could be sustained for over 25 hours decided to download the Audio as well and was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the production and the fact that I was able to read and listen really added to the the overall enjoyment of this book. My only regret is my lack of discipline to read this one over the period of weeks as per the reading groups instructions.

A great book for readers who enjoy classics or Victorian mysteries with terrific plot lines with well developed characters and a little romance with good old fashioned twists and turns.
Profile Image for Katie Lumsden.
Author 1 book2,707 followers
September 30, 2022
Maybe 4.5. It's not a perfect novel but it is a really great read.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books889 followers
July 19, 2021
Over 150 years later, The Woman in White still deserves its status as one of the most beloved and influential novels written in English. The combination of Gothic aesthetics, penny dreadful scandal, domestic drama and Victorian true crime makes it a mainstream delight for all readers, then and now. There’s even classic detective work that would, no doubt, go on to inspire the Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Collins’ mix of motifs were so unique, and inspired so many knock-offs, that eventually literary critics dubbed The Woman in White as the first 'Sensation Novel'. Specifically, this new genre is said to begin in Chapter 3, when a woman clad entirely in white is found wandering metropolitan streets in the pale moonlight. Her inexplicable, ghostly presence, possibly being the escapee of an insane asylum, and mysterious connection to an arranged marriage elsewhere was the cauldron that officially swirled all these ingredients together.

Stylistically, Collins’ close friendship with Charles Dickens is observed in his similar fashion of language, with a focus on middle class characters and pacing that reflects serialized publication. In other words, the book is long. Probably longer than it should be, but somehow rarely boring.

Serialized novels, like TV shows, are meant to drag out unanswered questions and keep audiences in suspense to sell more installments every week. In some ways this results in a bloated story, but it also means a number of “shocks” every few chapters to generate buzz. Tension is a constant presence, with the assurance of “something bad” about to happen lingering on every page. Cliffhangers are plentiful, yet artfully placed and used to great effect.

The novel would have been read side-by-side with articles involving high-profile legal cases and true crime happening around London, adding an impossible-to-ignore realism to the dramatic fiction. There were a few real life cases in particular which appear to have influenced Collins directly, including the 1856 trial of William Palmer.

Palmer was accused, convicted and ultimately hanged for his particularly heinous crimes of using strychnine to poison a friend, his mother-in-law, his brother, and even his four children. It seemed every day new details about his motivations were revealed. For instance, he received a huge life insurance payment after the death of his 27-year-old wife—who supposedly died of cholera—and brother, whom Palmer poisoned. He was also proven to have defrauded his mother’s wealth to pay heavy losses from gambling debts. The murder of his children was suspected merely for the sake of having less mouths to feed.

Dickens described Palmer as "the greatest villain that ever stood in the Old Bailey” and Collins seems to have been equally enthralled by the events of the twist-filled trial. For modern examples we would have to think as big as O.J. Simpson or Jodi Arias, and even those may have paled in comparison. It is estimated that a staggering 30,000 people attended the public hanging of William Palmer on June 14th, 1856. There’s evidence which suggests Wilkie Collins was one of them.

The Woman in White, with its detail-oriented prose and carefully constructed mystery, gave readers a front row seat to what could be the workings of this type of domestic poisoning which dominated the news. When Count Fosco, the novel’s central villain, confesses to his exceptional skills in chemistry, Collins did not need to provide further explanation for how chemists could use their talents for evil. William Palmer made Victorian audiences all too aware.

Once The Woman in White started to appear in print, it was clear a phenomenon was brewing. Frequent discussions around the local pubs included bets over what Sir Percival Glyde’s big “secret” might be. “Walter” became an increasingly popular baby name, while “Fosco” was a favorite choice for cats who exhibited sneaky, stalking personalities. Circulation of ‘All the World Around,’ the popular publication which serialized the novel, drastically increased its circulation. Beyond the text itself, The Woman in White inspired spin-off merchandise including its own line of perfume, bonnets and cloaks.

While society has certainly changed since Victorian times, it seems Wilkie Collins’ story still hits on all the topics which fascinate us, including what drives people to crime, marriage anxieties, and a desire to put bad guys to justice. I’m not surprised at all that it continues to find such a vast and eager audience.
Profile Image for Francesc.
382 reviews193 followers
July 12, 2022
Hay que tener paciencia con Wilkie Collins, pero, al final, te deja un buen sabor de boca.
Dicen que Collins es el precursor de la novela negra y, en cierta manera, se nota en sus libros.
No me apasionó todo el entramado amoroso, pero los personajes son de una profundidad enorme. Hace tiempo que lo leí y sigo acordándome de ellos. Un clásico imprescindible.

You have to be patient with wilkie Collins, but in the end it leaves a good taste in your mouth.
They say Collins is the forerunner of the crime novel and, in a way, you can see it in his books.
I wasn't passionate about the whole love network, but the characters are of enormous depth. I've been reading it for a long time and I still remember them. An indispensable classic.
Profile Image for Jeff .
912 reviews682 followers
August 26, 2016
A buddy read on the side with the Non-crunchers – hold the pants.

Hark! This book is over 150 years old, but, still, spoilers be us.

- Selling English by the pound.

This book has a lot going for it – a well-wrought plot, humor, some of literatures more enduring characters (Marian, Fosco, crazy Uncle Frederick), but it could have been cut down by a third and been one fine-tuned literary machine. I understand the book was serialized and that Wilkie Collins was probably being paid a tuppence-per-word and was best buds with the great Charles Dickens, who was a prodigious author in his own write (heh!), but, sir, you are no Stephen King, you should have trimmed this puppy down.

- The woman in white

Although Collins doesn’t give her a lot of page time, her presence permeates the book like that uncle of yours that slathers on Brut. He might be in another room, but you know he’s still on the premises – somewhere.

This book was written as a series of first person entries by a number of characters and divided into three epochs.

- Epoch the first

Walter Hartright, is a sieve as a character and an artist, who lands a gig teaching art (of all things) to a pair of sisters. He falls in love with the cute, vapid one and despite some of the most achingly emo-boy prose you’ll ever read, has to keep it in his pants, because the cute, vapid one is betrothed to another. So he runs away to Central America where he sends her lots of sketches of what looks like a Honduran anaconda jumping out of a bush.

- Epoch the second

I love Marian Halcombe, she’s smart, she’s got spunk, she’ll stand up for her family and friends, she’s got a fine bod, but Collins went ahead and gave her a face only a depraved, corpulent, balding, old, sociopathic, Italian Count (Fosco) would love. Plus, she apologizes for being a woman in Victorian society about 1.5 times for page:

If I wasn’t a woman, I’d cut that bitch, Countess Fosco.

If I wasn’t a woman, I’d kick Sir Perceval in the family jewels.

If I wasn’t a woman, I’d get stinking drunk and jump the gardener (or the maid).

- Epoch the third

This is an olde type book so you won’t find a trail of bodies or Walter Hartright going ninja or a gangsta turf war, but it plays out in satisfactory way. So if you love the classics and haven’t gotten around to this one, I’d recommend it.
Profile Image for Baba.
3,530 reviews790 followers
November 8, 2022
Walter Hartright comes across a woman clad in white on a moonlit night; a tutoring assignment finds his student to be identical to the Woman in White! What starts as a daring affair slowly but surely evolves into a waste against time to save his amour as the privilege seek to destroy her! A thoughtful and controversial detective mystery that was built around the gender inequality of the day as the antagonists use their male power to subvert their victims!

Originally published in Charles Dickens 'All Year Round' periodical from 1859 to 1860 this 'sensation' novel serial was a commercial success but not so much so with the critics. Sometimes framed as a supernatural, horror and/or mystery work, this ultimately, became with the passage of the time one of the earliest detective genre reads, and it still stands tall today, in my opinion, 8 out of 12, Four Star Read. Although warning it does really go to town with details, but that might be my impatient 21st century brain moaning.

The pic and GIF are from the 1948 movie adaptation starring Alexis Smith, Eleanor Parker, Sydney Greenstreet, and Gig Young.
2022 read
Profile Image for Charlotte May.
683 reviews1,050 followers
November 28, 2020
2 months and I’ve finally finished this. I was skim reading by the end though...

“There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth or dropped from the heaven - stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white garments.”

The beginning of this book sets a great scene. Walter Hartwright is on his way to start his new job as a drawing master to two sisters in a big house in the country.
On route he bumps into a woman dressed all in white - asking directions to London. She seems distressed, almost ethereal. You could be forgiven for thinking she was even a ghost.

It’s a great start and I was gripped to find out more about the woman. However we soon realise that the woman in white herself is only a small part of the overall story. She only shows up a few brief times.

Meanwhile Laura and Marian start their drawing lessons. Before long Walter and Laura have fallen in love - but Laura is already betrothed to Sir Percival Glyde, an ass of a man.

Speaking of assess. Sir Percival’s dear friend Count Fosco is also an ass. As the story went on I found myself growing frustrated with all the back and forth. I feel like all the questions could have been solved a lot quicker. I know this book was written in the 1800s so naturally it would be on the long side. But as a 21st century reader I was getting fed up after about 400 pages.

Overall, I did enjoy all the secrets and how they came about. I just wish it was shorter and that the reveals were quicker.
Profile Image for TJ.
2,647 reviews155 followers
October 27, 2011
This book is an amazing teaching tool. Not because it conveys any great lessons in life or exhibits profound understanding and insight but because it so clearly delineates the beauty and differences in 19th century writing and 21st century writing.

The story is definitely very gothic and one of the best mysteries available. It is in the length of the story - most especially the length of the writing that will probably cause many readers to balk. The descriptions, the conversations, the ideas... virtually everything is pondered at length. Reading this in today's society, where TV, the internet, pictures, videos etc. etc. grant us instant understanding and gratification, can be a tedious and boring job. In order to truly appreciate Collins writing, one must put themselves in the shoes of a reader amid 19th century standards. Most people knew little of life outside their small communities. Few traveled or had experience with people and places beyond the immediate. Thus the need for long explanations and descriptions. It was the only door open for a reader to experience life beyond.

A perfect example would be the description of Count Fosco, a very large Italian man. His description was so intricate and detailed as to take pages (not paragraphs - pages.) To us, that description might seem never-ending. To one who had probably never seen, let alone known an Italian man - good or bad - it described one so perfectly that the reader (without our modern day photography) could picture him with ease.

Therefore, any accurate review of this book must allow for those differences. Readers who enjoy the beauty of the written word just for itself will absolutely revel in this story. Those who are more story driven will need to put on their patience caps to get through it. The story itself is immaculately well-done, it is dark without being terrifying, riveting without being graphic. It is just couched within a style long forgotten and truly appreciated.
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews524 followers
September 16, 2016
Originally published in a weekly periodical between late 1859 and 1860 as a serial story, this is believed to be the first English crime detection novel. This is Victorian fiction that combines romance, mystery and Gothic horror with a psychological twist.

The story opens with an eerie encounter, in the dead of night on a moonlit London road.

In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth…stood the figure of a solitary woman, dressed from head to foot in white.

Collins had me at hello. This is the story of what a woman’s patience can endure, and what a man’s resolution can achieve. I loved the fly on the wall perspective of events as revealed through a series of narrators, starting with Walter Hartright, drawing master of the time and place, who introduced me to Marian Halcombe thusly;

The instant my eyes rested on her, I was struck by the rare beauty of her form, and by the unaffected grace of her attitude. Her figure was tall, yet not too tall; comely and well developed, yet not fat; her head sat on her shoulders with an easy, pliant firmness; her waist, perfection in the eyes of man, for it occupied it’s natural place, it filled out its natural circle, it was visibly and delightfully undeformed by stays. She had not heard my entrance into the room; and I allowed myself the luxury of admiring her for a few moments, before I moved one of the chairs near me, as the least embarrassing means of attracting her attention. She turned towards me immediately. The easy elegance of every movement of her limbs and body as soon as she began to advance from the far end of the room, set me in a flutter of expectation to see her face clearly. She left the window – and I said to myself, The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps – and I said to myself, The lady is young. She approached nearer – and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly!

Marian knows who she is, personally and as a woman in Victorian society. She reflects these qualities and embraces society’s expectations with elegance and grace, deftly, slowly, surely and quite successfully disarming her male audience and the reader with her charming, disarming, demeanour that both mirrors and ever so subtly mocks those expectations. Never have I been so invested in a character. I adore and applaud her. She is simply one of the most deftly drawn, beautiful and complex renderings I have ever encountered in the written word.

Without a doubt it is Collins characters that both support and propel this story, each in their own unique voice, of which Marian is but one. All brilliantly drawn and cleverly revealed as time goes by. It is a classic, therefore it is wordy, with long drawn out, highly descriptive sentences that go on and on and on as they slowly, persistently tug you forward.

No matter! I lapped up every word.
Profile Image for Fernando.
676 reviews1,067 followers
August 27, 2018
Ochocientas ochenta y ocho páginas tiene mi edición de “La dama de blanco” y en ningún momento el libro me aburre o deja de mantener el suspenso de todo lo que sucede alrededor de esta impresionante novela escrita tan magistralmente por Wilkie Collins.
Son pocos los autores que pueden darse el lujo de lograr lo que Collins genera en sus novelas. Muchos aseguran que es una de las cinco mejores novelas de misterio jamás escrita y de hecho aseguran que su otra obra maestra, “La piedra lunar” la acompaña.
Wilkie Collins, un maestro de la novela de suspenso, dramaturgo y ensayista y además socio literario de otro gigante, Charles Dickens, logró fama y éxito a partir de "La piedra lunar" y se transformó en uno de los principales referentes de un género que hoy se sigue leyendo en todo el mundo y que adquiere adeptos en forma constante y sostenida.
La trama argumental de la novela es clara y aparentemente simple: “El joven profesor de dibujo Walter Hartright viaja a Cumberland para dar clases a dos jóvenes y ricas herederas, las hermanas Laura y Marian Fairlie. Laura se enamora de el pero los agradables días en Limmeridge House acaban con la llegada del prometido de Laura, Sir Percival Glyde. Este alberga la intención de arrebatarle toda su herencia y cuenta con la ayuda del siniestro conde Fosco para llevar a cabo sus planes. Solo se interpone en su camino una misteriosa dama vestida de blanco que, al parecer, ha escapado de un sanatorio mental..."
Narrada de forma similar a "La piedra lunar" a partir de testimonios, cartas, diarios y notas, el argumento de "La dama de blanco" gira alrededor de cinco personajes bien determinados: la hermosa Laura Fairlie, posteriormente lady Glyde, de su marido, el inescrupuloso y taimado sir Percival Glyde, del conde Fosco, un oscuro y tenebroso conde italiano que influencia a Percival y lo controla todo. Estos dos harán lo imposible para quedarse con la fortuna de Laura, pero ella no estará sola y tendrá quienes la ayuden y defiendan ante la injusticia: su hermana Marian Halcombe y el profesor de dibujo Walter Hartright, de quien a principios de la novela Laura se enamora.
Un toque más de maestría introduce Wilkie Collins en todo este entramado de misterio y es la aparición de Anne Catherick, una supuesta mujer escapada de un sanatorio mental que dice posee un secreto que puede desenmascarar el pasado de si Percival Glyde. El sólo hecho de incluir este elemento prácticamente al principio de la novela lo cambia todo y a partir de allí logrará que el lector se mantenga atento a todo lo que surja más adelante. Nunca, en ningún capítulo del libro ese interés decae, porque otros factores argumentales también influyen para mantener la intriga de cómo puede terminar todo.
Cuando parece que ya está la verdad a la vista surgen otros inconvenientes que le dan la vuelta de tuerca a la trama y eso es lo que pasa en las últimas cien páginas del libro.
Todo el desarrollo de la novela está centrado en tres lugares bien definidos que son la localidad de Limmeridge, en la mansión donde comienza a narrar la historia Walter Hartright, luego en Blackwater Park donde transcurren gran parte de los sucesos más importantes y también en la localidad de Cumberland, sede de distintos "descubrimientos" que Walter y Marian Halcombe realizan.
Cabe destacar que Wilkie Collins sabe cómo meterse en la piel de cada personaje. Puede ser un tipo inescrupuloso y despiadado como sir Percival Glyde, peligroso y ventajero como el conde Fosco pero también dulce y sensible tal es el caso de Laura Fairie o meterse dentro de la piel combativa de una mujer con todas las letras: Marian Halcombe.
Y por supuesto, Anne Catherick, la dama de blanco que le da el nombre a la novela, que es el personaje clave de todo este embrollo y que será quien haga encajar todas las piezas de un rompecabezas muy complejo ideado por el autor. Cada una de sus aperciones fantasmales harán que toda la escena cambie, alimentarán la intriga y provocarán una giro en la narración que no estaba contemplado.
Párrafo aparte para la encendida defensa que Collins hace de la mujer y de sus derechos ya en el año 1850 y de cómo, sin utilizar el término "feminismo" deja bien en claro lo que representan en este mundo las mujeres. Eso es algo a lo que presté mucha atención durante la lectura de muchos pasajes del libro.
Wilkie Collins escribió una excelente novela, tal vez, un peldaño por debajo de "La piedra lunar", pero no por ellos menos intrigante.
Repito, no es fácil sostener un suspense de casi novecientas páginas. Genialidades como ésta solo están destinadas a escritores tan únicos como Wilkie Collins.
Profile Image for Axl Oswaldo.
332 reviews128 followers
August 16, 2022
As a good friend of mine told me a few months ago, The Woman in White reads like an addictive soap opera, where a lot of things are happening, one after another, and whose story is so easy to read—now I can tell it is the more readable Victorian book I have picked up so far—therefore, very entertaining and exciting.
I couldn't agree more with her, not only because the novel is indeed so riveting that you can't put it down once you start reading it, but also because it is beautifully written, with very well developed characters and a coherent, quite impressive plot as well as ending. If you ask me, I wasn't able to find out 'the secret' that is typical in sensation novels until the end of the book, when the author finally reveals it to the reader.

The Woman in White has everything that you need to enjoy a good sensation novel, perhaps with a cup of tea during the afternoon, while you read it. Now, I would agree that the book might be kind of 'daunting' because of its number of pages (700 or so), but it is by no means anything of that kind. Written as a series of diary entries, letters and notes, the story introduces a lot of characters that will be involved in a common mystery, a secret, and a possible crime, a plot that will be told masterfully by all the narrators—some characters that are part of the story are also the narrators—that have at least one thing to say in order to develop a complete story.

Our main protagonist is Walter Hartright—though he is not present during a great amount of chapters—who is besides the first narrator and a young teacher of drawing who starts working at Limmeridge House, having two students there: Laura Fairlie and her half-sister, Marian Halcombe. It is around this house and especially this family that the main plot is about, being really important for me to mention two more characters: the woman in white and Count Fosco.
Speaking of the woman in white, I would like to say the first time this brilliant character appears in the story was incredibly well described and narrated, with a mysterious, somewhat gloomy atmosphere that was also common in almost every single chapter – it was indeed from that moment on that I couldn't put the book down. As for Count Fosco, perhaps he was my only disappointment(?) in the novel, and not because he was not a great character—in fact, my friend told me Count Fosco is one of the greatest villains in literature based on her own reading experiences, and I would mostly agree on that, Fosco is actually sneaky, manipulative and downright evil—but because of his relatively late appearance in the story, being almost in the middle of the book, since I was much more interested in seeing the character's development and reading about his own beliefs, thoughts, etc. from the beginning and not almost at the end. Actually, I read this novel by listening to the audiobook—I'd like to give a shoutout to Billy Howle for such a great performance, another audiobook I would highly recommend—and I even remembered the first time Count Fosco is mentioned I was starting to wonder why that didn't happen way earlier in the story (for the record, it was a 25-hour audiobook).

In a nutshell, The Woman in White is a 5-star novel for me because it definitely lived up to my expectations, I truly enjoyed reading it from cover to cover, and I therefore consider it is worth giving it a go. Though it was my first experience reading a long sensation novel, I can tell it won't be the last one, mainly because, as a genre I was not familiar with, I completely love the way both characters and story are developed, which somehow makes me want to pick up other novels of that kind right away, such as Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon and East Lynne by Ellen Wood; hopefully sooner rather than later.

When two members of a family or two intimate friends are separated, and one goes abroad and one remains at home, the return of the relative or friend who has been travelling always seems to place the relative or friend who has been staying at home at a painful disadvantage when the two first meet. The sudden encounter of the new thoughts and new habits eagerly gained in the one case, with the old thoughts and old habits passively preserved in the other, seems at first to part the sympathies of the most loving relatives and the fondest friends, and to set a sudden strangeness, unexpected by both and uncontrollable by both, between them on either side.
Profile Image for Paul Weiss.
1,205 reviews145 followers
February 15, 2023
“The lady is dark. She moved forward a few steps – and I said to myself, …”

“… The lady is young. She approached nearer – and I said to myself (with a sense of surprise which words fail me to express), The lady is ugly!”

Marian Halcombe’s unbecoming features and distinct lack of beauty are offset with wit, intelligence, strength of character, bravura and courage, shrewdness, and loyalty. Laura Fairlie, her half-sister, by contrast, suffers a frail disposition and a weak, self-effacing, retiring personality but possesses a comely figure and undeniable facial beauty. Potential readers will not earn any insight points for guessing which one Walter Hartright falls in love with.

Late night on the road to Limmeridge House to undertake a contract as a drawing master, the previously mentioned Walter Hartright first encounters Anne Catherick, the eponymous woman in white, whom the reader learns is a mentally challenged young woman recently escaped from her commitment in an asylum. When he meets Laura and Marian, his student charges, the next day, Walter is shocked at the resemblance between Laura and the woman he had met and helped the previous night under such bizarre circumstances. Of course, notwithstanding their difference in class and Laura’s previous engagement to a wealthy local landowner baronet, Sir Percival Glyde, not to mention her melodramatic propensity for swooning, her heaving bosom and her Victorian tears, her sniffing at cologne and smelling salts, and her suffering from “back of the hand to the forehead” female illnesses, weaknesses, and bedroom confining headaches, Walter and Laura fall in love with each other. To avoid the likelihood of a certain scandal and the loss of reputation that would entail for Laura, Marion advises Hartright to leave Limmeridge House before the completion of his employment contract and he complies.

Shortly thereafter, Sir Percival Glyde, accompanied by his close friend, the outgoing, obsequiously charming, and spectacularly fat Count Fosco, (and his unaccountably surly and always subservient wife) arrives at Limmeridge House seeking to set a date for his contracted marriage to Laura. That arrival is overshadowed by the receipt of an anonymous letter warning Laura not to marry him under any circumstances. The plot begins to thicken quickly and one wonders whether a youthful Sherlock Holmes might have used his oft-repeated aphorism for the first time, “The game is afoot”!

If THE WOMAN IN WHITE were a modern novel (abundant servings of Victorian melodrama and sensation notwithstanding), it would be characterized as a psychological thriller based on criminal identity theft for financial gain. Gain to the tune of £30,000 to be more exact, which was an enormous fortune at the time. Walter Hartright’s and Marian Halcombe’s astute investigations to undercover the nature of the theft and its motives, and their legal machinations to restore the stolen identity to its rightful owner are exciting and compelling. Add in some thematic overtones of greed, misogyny, satire and political commentary on women’s legal rights in the mid-19th century, international spycraft, murder, fraud, adultery, and good old-fashioned criminal skullduggery blended with character development that is simply masterful in its depth and completeness, and it’s no wonder that THE WOMAN IN WHITE, first published in 1860, consistently ranks as one of the best English literature novels ever written and has never been out of print.

Highly recommended, I have no hesitation in adding THE WOMAN IN WHITE to my list of lifetime favourite novels.

Paul Weiss
Profile Image for Helene Jeppesen.
685 reviews3,643 followers
December 6, 2017
Newest review:
4.5/5 stars.

This was a reread and I enjoyed it immensely. So much so that I’m raising my rating of it from 3.5 to 4.5 stars.

First review:
3.5/5 stars.
This was a really amazing book that takes you on such a journey! I started it four days ago, and now - after having finished it - I feel like I've returned back home safely after having been gone for a long time. I don't know if that makes much sense, but that's how I feel :)
Now, this was my first book by Wilkie Collins and all I knew was that it was supposed to be a Victorian, scary read. It was in the beginning, and also slightly in the middle, but I was sad to realize towards the end that this turned more into a detective novel. I'm not fond of detective novels, and therefore that slightly decreased my reading experience and my fondness of this book.
That being said, I loved how this book is constructed through diverse narratives that are all pieces in a big puzzle. The narratives allowed for me to connect with the characters on an intimate level, and the characters were simply amazing! They stuck to my mind and followed me around when I wasn't reading, and I think that they are the best part of this story.
Even though I did find some of the things happening too convenient for my taste, I can't neglect the fact that this is a beautifully crafted piece of work that leaves an impression on you. I was contemplating between 3 and 4 stars while reading, so in the end I decided to go for 3.5. I loved the book despite its weaknesses, I just would've hoped for more Victorian eeriness and less of a detective novel.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews658 followers
May 19, 2014
The Woman in White is a gem of a novel - creepy, dense, menacing, and always intriguing. For a long time, the reader isn't quite sure what is going on, only that it isn't good - and it's to Collins' credit that when the plots are revealed, they are as interesting as anything I was supposing.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
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