Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White
by Wilkie Collins
Everyman's Library, Alfred A. Knopf 1991
609 pages

*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!


  1. I don't think I've read one book review that was negative on this title. I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I now have the print and the Kindle day soon, I hope.

  2. Very Halloween appropriate! I haven't read the book yet but loved the film. Have you read any other Wilkie Collins?

  3. I read The Moonstone and loved it. I have this one sitting in my Kindle waiting patiently. I know Simon at Savidge Reads is doing a readalong sometime soon, and I'm hoping to jump onboard. 600 pages huh? On the Kindle, you can't see how many pages there are, which may be a good thing!

  4. I loved this too! The perfect sort of novel for me - well written, well characterised, and with a brilliant, involving, page turning plot. I am currently steaming my way through The Moonstone - sensation novels are such good reads this time of year!

  5. Diane - I'm sure you'll enjoy this...whenever you can get to it!

    Verity - Now I need to look for the film! I read The Moonstone a few years ago, and it was one of my favorites of the year. No Name may be next...

    Sandy - I loved The Moonstone, too! The Woman in White would be prefect on the'll just keep reading and not even realize how long it is.

    Rachel - I'm already planning another Collins for this time next year! Love these sensation novels...

  6. I should be starting this book within the next week or two for the classics circuit, so I'm excited to read your review. Glad you liked it!!

  7. I've been looking forward to your review JoAnn. I had this book in my hand last night at Chapters but I chose another Wilkie Collins title...I'll keep you in suspense! I love that you wrote about The Woman in White being plot-driven and that it didn't read like a 600 page book. If you love books, I think reading this one is a must at some point in your life as I feel out of the loop for having not read it!

  8. It definitely doesn't feel half as long as it is! Same with The Moonstone. I must read more Collins before long.

  9. I just read this recently, my first Wilkie Collins, and I too loved it. And pageturner it is.

  10. Reviewsbylola - I have a feeling you're going to like this one! Can't wait to follow along for the Classics Circuit tour.

    Darlene - I just peeked at your latest post and see that your choice has been revealed! I can't wait to read No Name myself, but wonder if I'll get to it before the next RIP challenge.

    Nymeth - I will definitely be reading more Collins, too!

    Thomas - Glad to hear you loved this one, too. Thanks so much for stopping by!

    Marie - It is, but I think The Moonstone was even better.

  11. 600+ pages huh? I'm not sure if I can stick it out but I'm really glad that you enjoyed it!!

  12. Staci - It's funny, and I don't know how Collins managed it, but it sure didn't feel like 600 pages...really!

  13. My partner is about to start reading No Name - coincidentally I borrowed it for him from the library the same day that Darlene bought her copy!

  14. Verity - No Name will be my next Collins!

  15. I recently bought this on Nymeth's recommendation. Hope to get to it soon -- I know I'll love it.

  16. Beth F - I'm wondering if there's anybody out there that hasn't liked it...enjoy!

  17. Unfortunately for me, this novel felt like an 800 page novel. It felt as though it took me a century to read. I've grown accustomed to the inevitable mushiness in the middle of mid-nineteenth century novels, but something impaired my reading, and the novel felt excruciatingly long......

    Thanks for the review, though, and your own opinion!

  18. Madeleine - So sorry to hear that! FWIW, I liked The Moonstone much better...if you're ever inclined to give Collins another try.


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