by Wilkie Collins
Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf 1991
*originally serialized 1859-1860 in All The Year Round
Wilkie Collins has been getting a lot of blogger attention lately. Between Carl's RIP IV Challenge and Simon's Sensational Season, Wilkie seems to be everywhere! And beginning November 2, The Classics Circuit tour will feature Wilkie Collins every weekday through December 11.
The Woman in White is the quintessential sensation novel. These novels are designed to make the reader feel shock, disbelief, horror, suspense, fear, and sexual tension. They rely upon unexpected twists and turns of plot and often feature deathbed confessions, family secrets, mistaken identity, inheritance, bigamy, and villains.
From the front matter of my edition:
"Still unsurpassed as a masterpiece of narrative drive and excruciating suspense, The Woman in White is also famous for introducing, in the figure of Count Fosco, the prototype of the suave, sophisticated evil genius. The first detective novel ever written, it has remained, since its publication in 1860, the most admired example of the genre."
The Woman in White opens when Walter Hartright, walking back to London around midnight, encounters a woman dressed all in white. Hartright is about to begin employment as an art tutor to the young women (half sisters) at Limmeridge House, and is shocked when the mysterious woman mentions it by name. He later learns that a woman matching this description has escaped from the lunatic asylum.
This book is pure plot! It's probably best to begin knowing the types of elements which may be encountered, but not much more. There are wonderful passages, quotes, and character descriptions throughout the novel. I posted a couple of 'teasers' here and here.
The Woman in White doesn't feel like a six hundred page novel. The pages turn quickly and will surely keep you engaged until the wee hours of the morning!