Book #33: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

Matthew Sweet’s introduction explores the phenomenon of Victorian ‘sensation’ fiction, and discusses Wilkie Collins’s biographical and societal influences. Included in this edition are appendices on theatrical adaptations of the novel and its serialisation history.

This book took me on/off close to a year to read. It isn’t because of the writing. Wilkie Collins writes very well, in my opinion. It has to do with the epistolary multiple points of view. I couldn’t get myself to sit and read the book. However, once I got the audio, I was able to finish the book fairly quickly in comparison.

This is a very Victorian book. The women have their place and the men have the women’s “well-being” in mind. That is until you meet Marion. Marion is Laura Fairlie’s half-sister and probably the most badass literary victorian woman I’ve come across. What I mean by that is that she is intelligent and unafraid to stand her ground. She is a spinster and proud. She is my favorite character by far.

Anyway, this book deals with the legality issues and abuse to women of money and marriage. Women didn’t have many rights in the past, arguably even today. With that and the alpha male mind mentality, you see a disservice put on Laura throughout the book.

There are intrigue and scandal aplenty in this book. Some of which will make you scratch your head and wonder if it really would have gone down the way it did in the book, but it’s there. Personally, I feel an abridged version would have been okay to read, but the book itself isn’t bad.

I’m not turned off to one of the founding fathers of the modern mystery and I do like that this book seems to be a commentary on women’s rights. Not all rights, but the rights of a married woman. It’s an interesting read in that it gives me another viewpoint of the Victorian era through its literature.

Is it my favorite? No. Did I like it? I did. Would I read it again? Maybe. Maybe not. I would see the movie though. I plan on buying it.

Final Rating: 3/5

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