Friday, August 7, 2009

The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins

A mysterious figure in white appears on Hampstead Heath, before the
narration moves to a large North Country house. Sections of the storyline are taken up by a variety of characters, through whose eyes we experience events in this romantic, gothic thriller.
I had read The Woman in White in my teens and now I had only a vague idea of the plot so I decided to read it again.

Wilkie Collins writes an intriguing and engaging story. From the moment when Walter Hartright meets a mysterious woman in white running away from a private asylum and helps her, we are drawn into the puzzle of who she is. After Walter arrives at his next employment, it becomes apparent that there must be some relationship between the woman and Laura Fairlie, for whom Walter falls in love. And after Laura married the man her late father had destined to her and Walter leaves the country to forget her it seems apparent that Laura’s Husband and his friend Count Fosco are involved in a mystery of their own.

As soon as Laura marries Sir Percival Glyde and they return from their honeymoon to live with her sister Marian Halcombe it is apparent that Sir Percival’s main interest is his wife’s money and he will do all in his power to get it, dutifully aided by Fosco.

I think one of the main attractions is how the story is written. It is presented as a series of letters by some of the most prominent intervenients in the action so the point of view differs according to who is remembering the events. While it was sometimes frustrating to read how easy it was for the conspirators to fool everyone it was also an interesting exercise to read about everyone’s thoughts and how they had different voices.

I must say that I found Marian to be the most appealing character; she is strong, sensible and determined where Laura always seems too distant. While she and the woman in white are the key to the whole conspiracy she seems more like an object of adoration up in its pedestal than an active participant. Marian and the sinister Count Fosco are definitely the characters that I most vividly remembered after closing the book. Wilkie Collins is great at plotting and keeping us in suspense until the end when everything is revealed.

Grade: 4.5/5


  1. I also read this years ago, along with The Moonstone. I liked them both very much then.

    Thanks for the reminder- I'll have to dig them out and try them again.

  2. I hope you enjoy it now as much as you did then. I haven't read The Moonstone yet but I have plans to soon.

  3. I loved this book **because** of Marian. Without her no-nonsense point of view, I might not have finished it.