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The Lady Vanishes (1936)

by Ethel Lina White

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2671374,375 (3.66)73
Iris Carr, an English girl holidaying in the pre-war Balkans, becomes friendly with Miss Froy, to all appearances an innocent, middle-aged governess. They return to England on the same train, but Miss Froy suddenly disappears from her compartment. A conveniently available doctor tries to convince Iris that she is suffering from hallucinations and that Miss Froy never existed; but she enlists the help of a somewhat improbable Sir Galahad, and together they fall headlong into a world of secret agents and disguised identities.… (more)
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» See also 73 mentions

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White, Ethel Lina. The Lady Vanishes [Original title The Wheel Spins]. 1936. Murder Room, [2001].
I recently watched the first two movie versions of The Lady Vanishes, and so I decided to take a peek at the source material. When Ethel Lina White, then a strong competitor for Agatha Christie, wrote this novel, the Nazi’s were not the villains. The worry was communist radical revolution in Europe, but White places them well in the background. She is interested in the psychology of memory, as our heroine spends most of the story in a semi-drugged, perhaps concussed, condition, trying to get others to believe her story about a woman vanishing off a moving train and beginning to doubt her own sanity. The plot focuses on the numerous motives people have for either not believing her or lying about what they saw. If Agatha Christie’s novels sometimes seem dated, White seems antediluvian. Her dialogue is unimpressive, and I notice that neither Hitchcock nor Anthony Page had much respect for it. In both movie versions, the story is changed from a murder story to an espionage tale and updated to fit the prewar setting. Hitchcock in 1938 seems most interested in playing with the new sound technology and having fun shooting in the tight confines of the train—elements he would exploit for the rest of his career. The 1979 Page remake with Elliott Gould and Cybill Shepherd is more interested in recreating a nostalgic homage to Claudette Colbert and Clark Gable. I have not seen the 2013 Masterpiece Mystery version with Tuppence Middleton, which reviews suggest is truer to the novel than either of the first two films. ( )
  Tom-e | Apr 24, 2020 |
This little known 1930s novel was the inspiration for the famous Hitchcock film The Lady Vanishes and its two remakes. I was inspired to seek it out and read it after watching the 2013 TV movie version last week (actually closer in some ways to the original novel than was the Hitchcock film). The story is fairly well known: young socialite Iris Carr is travelling by train across Europe and befriends a middle aged spinster, Miss Froy. When she wakes up, Miss Froy has disappeared and the other passengers deny she ever existed. Iris's desperate attempts to establish the truth of what she remembers and what has happened to Miss Froy are quite gripping to read, even knowing the course of events and eventual outcome. The novel contains more backstory about Miss Froy and many of the other characters than do any of the screen versions, though I felt this broke the narrative tension a bit too much. A good read. ( )
  john257hopper | Jan 9, 2019 |
This was really fun! Very much like reading a Hitchcock movie. ( )
  Katie80 | Oct 8, 2018 |
Iris Carr is traveling home from a vacation alone when she meets Miss Froy, an English governess, on the train. When Iris wakes from a nap, Miss Froy is gone and doesn't return. Though Iris searches for her, she can't be found. Even worse, the other passengers deny ever seeing her. Add in two rather sinister passengers and it does seem something untoward has occurred. The book's slow pace aggravated me but at the same time added to the tension. ( )
  clue | Jun 17, 2018 |
Iris Carr boards a train in Europe where she meets Miss Froy, an English governess. Soon Miss Froy cannot be found. The other passengers do not seem bothered by the disappearance and begin thinking Iris suffers delusions. An imposter appears, but Iris recognizes the facial discrepancies, and realizes a conspiracy is afoot and Miss Froy's life endangered. I watched Hitchcock's take on this several years ago, so the film came to mind as I read it. The book is as excellent as the film. ( )
1 vote thornton37814 | Mar 24, 2018 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Ethel Lina Whiteprimary authorall editionscalculated
Williams, FintyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The day before the disaster, Iris Carr had her first premonition of danger.
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Their formal bow, when Iris squeezed by them, was conditional recognition before the final fade-out.

"We'll speak to you during the journey," it seemed to say, "but at Victoria we become strangers."
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Iris Carr, an English girl holidaying in the pre-war Balkans, becomes friendly with Miss Froy, to all appearances an innocent, middle-aged governess. They return to England on the same train, but Miss Froy suddenly disappears from her compartment. A conveniently available doctor tries to convince Iris that she is suffering from hallucinations and that Miss Froy never existed; but she enlists the help of a somewhat improbable Sir Galahad, and together they fall headlong into a world of secret agents and disguised identities.

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