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The Woman in White (Penguin Classics) by…

The Woman in White (Penguin Classics) (original 1860; edition 2003)

by Wilkie Collins

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
7,918218415 (4.09)6 / 1040
Title:The Woman in White (Penguin Classics)
Authors:Wilkie Collins
Info:Penguin Classics (2003), Edition: Reissue, Paperback
Collections:Your library

Work details

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1860)

  1. 131
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (starfishian)
  2. 154
    Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Cecilturtle)
  3. 40
    Freedom and Necessity by Steven Brust (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: Both novels take place in Victorian England. They have convoluted plots, many surprises and a whiff of the occult. Although Freedom and Necessity was not a Victorian novel, it reads like one, complementing the style of Collins.
  4. 51
    The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (wonderlake)
  5. 30
    Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (joririchardson, Hollerama)
  6. 31
    The Seance by John Harwood (bibliobeck, simon_carr)
  7. 53
    Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (wonderlake, teelgee)
    teelgee: Definitely see where Sarah Waters got her inspiration!
  8. 32
    The Suspicions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House by Kate Summerscale (wonderlake)
    wonderlake: Victorian crime
  9. 10
    Uncle Silas: A Tale of Bartram-Haugh by J. Sheridan Le Fanu (Hollerama)
  10. 11
    The House of Ulloa by Emilia Pardo Bazán (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: Spanish *gothic* from about the same time period.
  11. 12
    The Truth about the Savolta Case by Eduardo Mendoza (caflores, caflores)
  12. 48
    The Count of Monte Cristo, Vol. 2 by Alexandre Dumas (caflores)

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English (208)  Spanish (3)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Catalan (1)  Swedish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (217)
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
Whilst reading the first two-thirds of this book, it was primed in my mind for a 5 star review. But now that I've finished it, I think it's dropped to 4 stars (which still ranks as very good, but not quite reaching personal 'favourite' status).

Firstly, to the immense positives - this book is a complex, gripping Victorian detective-style story (albeit without a traditional detective), and despite the novel's size (c. 650 pages) I felt it successfully worked towards dramatically building up and then slowly unravelling the plot. There was no treading water, and I can have no causes for complaint about it aimlessly drifting off at any point. It's one of those books were you hardly dare mention any aspect of the plot for fear of creating a spoiler for the next reader, and it was definitely page-turning for much of the way through.

The characters were incredibly well developed, and the larger than life character of the supremely vain Count Fosco was especially memorable - a character I'm sure I will remember for years to come despite my usual inability to remember the plot of any book for more than a nano-second. He really was the most superb villain, full of cunning, power and nerve, his fear-factor heightened fantastically by his patience for the long-game and a calculated ability to never drop his guard as an unimpeachable man of chivalry and position.

So despite my own accolades, why did it not quite reach the hallowed status of personal favourite? Gripping as it was, I think it was just played out a little too long for me, and my attention began to wane. I also found it too explained at times - sometimes it's nice to leave the reader with a little work to do themselves, but Collins regularly made a point of stating the obvious (not completely breaking the rule of 'show, don't tell' - more of a case of 'show but then tell as well just in case they don't entirely get it'). Mind you, at times these recaps were much appreciated, saving me from having to thumb back through the book to remind myself again about something which had happened some 200 pages before.

A somewhat neglected classic which has deservedly received a resurgence in popularity in recent years ( 1001 books you must read before you die effect, no doubt), if you enjoy Victorian suspense, intrigue, foreboding country houses and dastardly doings you are in for a superb treat. ( )
  AlisonY | Feb 19, 2015 |
Pretty good-- but would have been much better, had Collins left out all the "as a woman,..." "the weakness of a woman," sort of stuff. ( )
  KatrinkaV | Feb 19, 2015 |
This sensation novel has it all - sinister Italian brotherhoods, lookalikes, asylums, plots to obtain money, kidnappings, drugs, mental illness. Lost siblings, family secrets. As in The Moonstone, I was a big fan of the multiple view points, although the use of journals did get ridiculous at some points ("I'm nervously waiting for someone, I must see them immediately on arrival! Oh, there are the horses and there goes the door, there are their steps on the stairs! I must go to greet them!") not to mention other things.

A lot of the time we can only guess at the sinister fates and back stories that be named candidly due to the corset of Victorian manners in which Collins is writing, but even as it is, the fates of the female characters is frightening. Even though the events in the novel do take ridiculous terms, the fact that on marrying, they were often whisked away from all they knew and led isolated lives in the houses of their husbands is a fact. That young women in particular were utterly dependent on male relatives is, too.

Sadly, even in spite of these horrifying prospects, this did not make me feel particularly sympathetic towards femme fragile (and Sexy Lamp) Laura Fairly. Her constant inability to take initiative and action is galling to read about and only becomes somewhat understandable after she has been placed in the care of her evil husband, but makes it inexplicable to me how anyone could fall in love with her- she seems so devoid of any strong characteristics TO love. I'd have imagined that a character as strong as Marion might have rubbed off on her hopeless half-sister, especially under the care of their feeble-minded uncle.

Marion, the true star of the story, is also the main focus of my sympathies and attention and the fact that she is so wasted in playing second role and trusted babysitter to her sister is infuriating. I would have liked to see her happier and more free.

The strong dependence that the Marion/Walter/Laura triad show for each other still makes for an interesting relationship architecture in spite of my higher hopes for Marion. She seems happy, and in the end, that's all I could have asked for. ( )
  Mothwing | Feb 15, 2015 |
Synopsis: A young woman wearing white enlists the aid of a stranger to escape from a mental hospital. The young man who helps her becomes the art teacher of two other young women who are, indirectly, involved with the Woman in White. Murder, torture, and fraud surround the main characters, pulling them apart and pushing them together until the final relationships are finally revealed.
Review: This is touted as one of the first mystery-crime books written. It is an excellent example of a tale told from several viewpoints, then brought together to bring the story to an end. While the are parts that are exceedingly verbose for today's readers, the book is involving with sufficient amounts of tension to keep the reader interested. ( )
  DrLed | Nov 26, 2014 |
Very difficult to get into, but once I got interested, he had me. Didn't show the humor and the characterization of Dickens, but the plot development and use of coincidence were very reminiscent of Dickens. Marion was a good character, showing strength rarely seen in a Victorian female character. Overall very good, but not quite to the level of Dickens. ( )
  AliceAnna | Oct 23, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 208 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (185 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wilkie Collinsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dei, FedoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, MatthewEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Symons, JulienEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Willis, ChristineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Woolf, GabrielNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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First words
This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve.
The soft hazy twilight was just shading leaf and blossom alike into harmony with its own sober hues as we entered the room, and the sweet evening scent of the flowers met us with its fragrant welcome through the open glass doors.
There are three things that none of the young men of the present generation can do. They can't sit over their wine, they can't play at whist, and they can't pay a lady a compliment.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (1)

Book description
When Walter Hartwright encounters a solitary, terrified, beautiful woman dressed in white on a moonlit night in London, he feels impelled to solve the mystery of her distress. The story, full of secrets, locked rooms, lost memories, and surprise revelations, features heroine Marian Halcombe and drawing-master Walter Hartright as sleuthing partners pitted against the diabolical Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. This gothic psychological thriller, a mesmerizing tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, has gripped the imagination of readers since its first publication in 1860. The breathtaking tension of Collins's narrative created a new literary genre of suspense fiction, which profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing.
Haiku summary
Identity theft,
Money, madness, hidden crimes:
A Collins classic.
(passion4reading - thank you, wisewoman)

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439610, Paperback)

Generally considered the first English sensation novel, The Woman in White features the remarkable heroine Marian Halcombe and her sleuthing partner, drawing master Walter Hartright, pitted against the diabolical team of Count Fosco and Sir Percival Glyde. A gripping tale of murder, intrigue, madness, and mistaken identity, Collins's psychological thriller has never been out of print in the 140 years since its publication.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:52 -0400)

(see all 9 descriptions)

When Walter Hartright has a mysterious moonlit encounter with a woman dressed all in white, his world changes forever.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 22 descriptions

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Average: (4.09)
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1 16
1.5 5
2 54
2.5 31
3 256
3.5 100
4 679
4.5 131
5 640


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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439610, 0141389435

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