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The Woman in White (1860)

by Wilkie Collins

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
10,520300453 (4.07)7 / 1219
"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." Thus young Walter Hartright first meets the mysterious woman in white in what soon became one of the most popular novels of the nineteenth century. Secrets, mistaken identities, surprise revelations, amnesia, locked rooms and locked asylums, and an unorthodox villain made this mystery thriller an instant success when it first appeared in 1860, and it has continued to enthrall readers ever since. From the hero's foreboding before his arrival at Limmeridge House to the nefarious plot concerning the beautiful Laura, the breathtaking tension of Collins's narrative created a new literary genre of suspense fiction, which profoundly shaped the course of English popular writing. Collins's other great mystery, The Moonstone, has been called the finest detective story ever written, but it was this work that so gripped the imagination of the world that Wilkie Collins had his own tombstone inscribed: "Author of The Woman in White."… (more)
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English (287)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (299)
Showing 1-5 of 287 (next | show all)
I ~loved~ this. It's made its way straight into my top ten. It certainly hit all the right buttons for me, in that it has all of the elegance and literary merit of classic British literature, yet manages to be an enthralling page-turner at the same time.

I really couldn't recommend this book more highly, both for fans of the classics and those who generally stay away from them ;) ( )
  Tara_Calaby | Jun 22, 2020 |
I read way too much Victorian stuff when I was little. Girls were always fainting and I would sit in church on Sundays, eyeing the altar boys and deciding which one’s arms I was going to faint into. It seemed such a romantic thing to do. On the other hand, the likelihood of ever fainting seemed poor. I didn’t have a clue how or why one would, let alone time it for when a loved one was standing, arms to the ready.

Subsequently, as an adult, I have done so a couple of times and it is nothing like the books make it out to be. Sigh.

The first time was 1994. I’d got up late morning – 1pm, to be exact and when you are a card playing type that IS still morning – smoked a joint and went to the shower – an over the bath affair. I stood there brushing my teeth and it occurred to me that I was going to pass out. ‘Interesting’, I thought, and went on brushing. I know the obvious thing with this warning would have been to sit down in the bath, or get out, but I’m not very good at the obvious. And I did indeed pass out quite directly. Unfortunately I hit my face on the taps on the way down, with a couple of cuts so deep they almost went right through my cheek. Where was the gallant guy who saves you as you faint? On duty somewhere else, I guess. I shakily got myself up and dressed and went down to my local doctor who sewed me up. Romantic it was not.

The second time was last night. No loved one then either, no chivalrous man to save me from myself. What’s the point of fainting if there is no one to save you? I’m doing something wrong here. My timing is shite. But it’s like I suspected when I was little. It was all very well fantasising about fainting into the arms of the cutest altarboy…but it’s all in the timing and how on earth was I going to get that right?

Bugger it. I’m giving up fainting. Consider it a belated New Year’s Eve resolution.
( )
  bringbackbooks | Jun 16, 2020 |
Sometimes it is so damn hard to put your mindspace in the right place to enjoy a piece so far out of your frame, and this is definitely one of those books.

I knew a bit of what I might expect, after all, I did enjoy reading [b:Drood|3222979|Drood|Dan Simmons|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1441211620s/3222979.jpg|3257056] and so I got a real hankering to read an actual extremely popular novel by such a wild character in a modern book about Wilkie and Charles. But that's neither here nor there. I probably wouldn't have ever picked this one up without it, though.

On to the novel at hand. It's a mystery! And if I can believe wikipedia, it's one of the very first ever written, and considered to be one of the top 100 novels ever written! Whoopie! I mean, that's all great and all. But did I enjoy it? Actually... I did. To a degree.

Of course, the mental gymnastics were pretty strenuous. After all, I have to suspend belief that Laura was NOT TSTL. Tstl? Yes. Tstl. Every step of the way, she made the most horrible decisions, either by not listening to her heart or not having a brain in her head. If this were a mystery novel of even 20 years after its written date of 1854, we'd have killed this one off like a redshirt for sure. Therefore, I am UTTERLY AMAZED by the ending. I've never seen such brilliant contrivance to make such an unlikable airhead pull through to the very end, have her love, her fortune, and her unwitting revenge upon all who had assailed her.

I mean, WOW. Wilkie Collins is a MASTER.

That being said, I thought the Count was pretty much awesome. Everyone except for Laura and Walter managed to transform themselves from cardboard cutouts into genuine people full of both good and bad.

Sometimes the descriptions were cumbersome and made me wish for a bit of a Hemingway Edit, but that's a complaint I can make about any of the literature of that day. There was one notable exception. I loved our enlightenment of Count Fosco's animals. It's details like this that turn a sensational-ish novel into something a bit more memorable.

I swear, though: Laura was consistently tstl. Thank GOD for her half-sister. Miss Halcombe was pretty damn awesome from start to finish, and I agree 100% with the Count's esteem of her.

The one thing I cannot be more pleased about, after finishing this, is the fact that there wasn't some long-drawn-out court scene so reminiscent of modern police drama or mysteries. We had the hint of it in the beginning, and it could have gone that way, but I can't be happier with the outcome as it actually occurred.

There was a hell of a lot of expanded plot in this novel, and it was all so logical and well thought out. I'm just so damn AMAZED that the whole society in which they lived was actually able to FUNCTION, ya know? How could people trust each other as much as they did? How could people be so INNOCENT? I mean, really? Really? Was it a function of the black and white nature of the novels of the time to pop all of these features out at us in stark and glowing detail? Or was it just Wilkie? Or was it in actual fact, a real piece of the society in which they all lived?

I'm primarily a sf/f/horror fan, but I truly HAVE read a ton of traditional classics. And yet, I'm still forced to set myself into a Victorian England as if it is some truly alien society so foreign and strange to us. It's funny. I should know better. Life is WEIRD.
( )
  bradleyhorner | Jun 1, 2020 |
I love this novel. Collin's book, "The Woman in White" is known for it's vivid, complex descriptions on everything, and for it's ability to be a teaching tool for another century of writers in mystery.

But While the story is very gothic in nature, it may turn off some readers. Some people just don't understand how a mid-9th century author will write; the descriptions, the conversations, the ideas, and the reiterations are all pondered at great length.

Reading a novel like this, in today's society, where instant gratification is the King - well that will probably being tedious and boring for most. So in order to truly appreciate Collins' writing, one must put themselves in the shoes of the 19th century reader's standards. Most people in this era knew little of life outside their tiny lives, or small, insular towns. Only the rich get to travel, and experience other cultures, and lots of other people. There was a need for long explanations and descriptions, as it was the only way for a reader to experience things beyond the norm. Even the most poor of the populace could find a copy of the periodical this novel, and many others, appeared in, and would be riveted on every single word.

So readers who enjoy the beauty of the written word, for just itself, and for long, flowing cadances in a paragraph, will revel in this amazing story. Those who are more story-driven will need to exercise their patience at least a few times throughout the book. The story itself is immaculate; just dark enough to enthrall a reader without being terrifying for those who are not used to it, and not graphic enough for young people to also read/hear about. It is couched in a style that is long forgotten, for most.

Meanwhile, for those of us Bibliophiles who don't mind a "period piece", love going back in time once in a while, to the 19th century. It is good for you. ( )
  stephanie_M | Apr 30, 2020 |
I come to this book having already having read Wilkie Collins's novel The Moonstone. Because of this, I found his use of multiple narrators repetitive and not as well done, which is admittedly unfair as The Moonstone is a later novel and reflects his greater experience with the technique (not to mention what I thought was a more natural explanation for the employment of the multiple retrospective accounts). Still, I found The Woman in White inferior in other respects as well; the central mystery was less engaging and the lack of a protagonist on the level of Sgt. Cuff telling (the character best suited to play this role, Marian, is effectively put in a position where she has to rely on the far less interesting Hartright to resolve their problems). Though it would have been to the earlier novel's credit to have read it first, but then I don't know if I would have been as motivated to read The Moonstone afterward.

Reading all of this might leave you with the impression that I didn't like the novel, which is far from the truth; I found it to be enjoyably written, with sympathetic characters and a plot that kept me engaged to the final page. I'm glad to have read it, and will probably return to it in the future. That being said, though, I would recommend readers interested in exploring Collins's works to begin with The Moonstone which is a leaner and more interesting work than this one. ( )
  MacDad | Mar 27, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (82 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Collins, Wilkieprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bailey, JosephineNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cauti, CamilleIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dei, FedoraTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Holm, IanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lorac, E. C. R.Introductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prebble, SimonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ruffilli, PaoloIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sweet, MatthewEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Symons, JulianIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Tummolini, StefanoTranslatorsecondary 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.
T. S. Eliot, in seeking to express his admiration for Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White, together with Armadale and The Moonstone, regretted that there was no aesthetic of melodrama, a genuine art form. (Introduction)
An experiment is attempted in this novel, which has not (so far as I know) been hitherto tried in fiction. (Preface 1860)
'The Woman in White' has been received with such marked favour by a very large circle of readers, that this volume scarcely stands in need of any prefatory introduction on my part. (Preface 1861)
Quotations
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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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)
The Woman in White.
Count Fosco controls it all,
but Marian wins!
(rretzler)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439610, 0141389435

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An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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