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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White (original 1860; edition 2011)

by Wilkie Collins

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10,013290442 (4.08)7 / 1198
Title:The Woman in White
Authors:Wilkie Collins
Info:Simon & Brown (2011), Paperback, 764 pages
Collections:Kindle Fiction, Your library

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The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (1860)

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English (278)  Italian (3)  Dutch (2)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  Portuguese (1)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (290)
Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
It's easy to think that cultural sensations like Game of Thrones or Harry Potter are unique to 21st century life, but The Woman in White, a serialized Victorian novel published in 1860 was just as much of a cultural phenomenon in its day. And I'm here to tell you that it holds up! This story of greed, chance, look-alikes, madness, forgery, complicated British inheritance laws, thwarted love, murder, and a couple of truly amazingly drawn Italians (one good, one so wonderfully bad) is just as much of a page turner 160 years after its publication. Collins tells his story as a kind of a legal disposition with characters stepping into to tell their memories or share their diary entries surrounding the tragic and compelling story of Anne Catherick, the woman in white herself, and Laura Fairlie, a wealthy and innocent young woman who bears a strong resemblance to Anne. This technique helps highlight Collins' knack for creating characters with unique voices, while also letting certain unreliable narrators be as unreliable as they want without an omniscient narrator stepping in to straighten things out. It's hard to do any justice to the plot of this 500+ page novel in (and to avoid any spoilers) in a summary, so I'll just encourage anyone with a love for Victorian sensationalism to dig in. My only real criticism is that the book loses some of its drive as we reach the conclusion: in part this is a natural side effect of needing to tie up all the loose ends, but it is also a result of losing the amazing voice of Marian Halcome, Laura's devoted half-sister, in the third volume of the book. More Marian and more Fosco! ( )
  kristykay22 | Jun 30, 2019 |
I guess there's something wrong with me. I rather liked this book. I'm not literary enough to classify it, but I think it might be a kind of mixture of gothic and romance novels. It is decidedly Victorian in outlook and does go on a bit. But even so, it was entertaining and engaging. I was looking for excuses to find extra reading time, unlike the previous book I'd read, The Martian, when the exact opposite was going on.

Basically, something bad has happened, or is about to happen, or something. It's not at all clear in the beginning. This book is a series of reports by various witnesses to the evil that may, or may not, or may not yet have occurred. It is organized in chronological order, so we don't know exactly what happened to get the reports going. We have to read on to find out. Interestingly, it's rather compelling.

The primary protagonists are an drawing instructor, Walter Hartright, and two half sisters, Marian Halcome and Laura Fairlie. Just before he is to head off to Cumberland to tutor the two half sisters, Walter meets a woman dressed all in white, in the middle of the night. She asks his help in getting to London. It turns out she has just escaped from an insane asylum. Hartright learns that she has a particular aversion to some unnamed baronet, and a particular fondness for the woman who used to be mistress at the house where Hartright is going to tutor the young ladies. In fact, the "woman in white's" benefactress is none other than the late mother of the two half sisters.

When Walter gets to the estate where the two half sisters live, he discovers that Laura bears an amazingly strong resemblance to the "woman in white", i.e. the asylum escapee. Laura is about to be married to a baronet, but shortly before her wedding, she receives a letter from an anonymous person warning her away from the baronet. Walter suspects the letter writer is the "woman in white" and eventually tracks her down.

Well, things continue, bad things happen, scoundrels appear, a Jekyll-and-Hyde, evil baronet woos and wins Laura, and so forth. We read reports from Hartright himself, Marian Halcome, their housekeeper, a lawyer or two, some maids, and so on. Eventually, we get to the crux of the matter, find out what happened, and ultimately get some resolution.

The one part I didn't much like was that Walter falls madly in love with Laura, who is beautiful, but otherwise kind of a light weight. Her half sister, is ever so much more competent, but isn't so fair of face. Well, when you're stuck with someone for life, better a good companion with wit and intelligence, than a bubble headed bit of eye candy. In a few years, the eye candy will fade, but the wit and intelligence will still be with you. Of course, I don't really know this for sure, because I not only married the most competent of four sisters, but also the best looking one.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
It was an okay book. I had trouble getting into it, but after around 50 pages I got used to the book.
That doesn't mean I like it a lot. The writer uses too many words for that. For some reason the text is woolly to me, many sentences to describe sonethibg that could have been done in less. ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Jun 17, 2019 |
This book is a Victorian "mystery" told by multiple narrators. It is a great read, albeit long. 1005 pages ( )
  tess_schoolmarm | Mar 5, 2019 |
'The Woman in White' was something of an ordeal. The plot is excellent and the characters were well-formed, but it was a struggle to get through the extended baton-passing that greeted the shifts in narration, from Hartwright to Gilmore especially. I don't need to be reminded that the previous narrative has ended and another will commence with that kind sir's permission and the knowledge that that gentleman will add more at a later date. Readers needed different methods of reassurance 150 years ago I suppose. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 278 (next | show all)
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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)
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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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)
The Woman in White.
Count Fosco controls it all,
but Marian wins!

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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:48 -0400)

(see all 10 descriptions)

Marian and her sister Laura live a quiet life under their uncle's guardianship until Laura's marriage to Sir Percival Glyde. Sir Percival is a man of many secrets. Hence, Marian and the girls' drawing master, Walter, have to turn detective in order to work out what is going on, and to protect Laura from a fatal plot.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439610, 0141389435

Tantor Media

An edition of this book was published by Tantor Media.

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