Author: Wilkie Collins
Rating: 5/5 Stars
Book Blurb: “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.”
The Woman in White is one of the best books I’ve ever read.
I don’t think I’ve felt this way about a book since I stumbled on to Sharon Kay Penman’s work. That feeling of reading something and saying: THIS is why I read books.
I feel that you should go into this book knowing as little as possible. Because of that, all the twists were novel to me and they were just so. well. executed. I was shocked when you realized who the true villain was. I was shocked at the cliffhanger endings, wondering what was going to happen next.
The book is long at 635 pages. It is written in multiple POVs. But the time Collins takes with each character and giving them a distinct voice has such a great payoff in the end. You care about your heroes. One of the POVs was a quirky, likable character whom later you find out has fallen ill – and I found myself going oh no, I hope they are ok – feeling this genuine concern after being in their head for part of the book. I had to remind myself this person is not real.
I did not think you could pull off a thriller element this effectively in a book from the 1860s. I was wrong. My favorite part of the book was when a diary entry of one of our POV is hijacked and finished by the villain and I was saying “Nononononononoooooo!” out loud resulting in the side eye from my husband. The shock of it, the WHAT HAPPENED?!!!!!, the need to keep reading to find out – just so well done.
And the book, for all its entertainment value – also comments on how the laws of inheritance worked for women back then. It’s an integral part of the story and and after fact checking, I learned quite a bit, I had quite a few misconceptions when it came to the subject.
If you hesitate to read this book because it is too long, it is divided into parts so there are natural stopping points to break up the reading. I warn you some of those points are cliffhangers, but you can use them to make your way through this book. It’s worth the time and the read.
I am excited to read The Moonstone, which I also have on my shelf.