Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

I could not find the exact cover of my copy of The Woman in White. Since I've purchased my copy, Penguin has changed the front cover to this:

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is considered the first English sensation novel and was a prelude to our modern detective novel. Written and published in 1860 during the Victorian era---I'm sure this novel caused a stir! If you have the chance to read my below links on the man, Wilkie Collins, you will be intrigued by his unusual lifestyle (for his era.) He was certainly rebellious and defiant against the norm for the 19th century. I did a little research On-line looking for what happened to his three children and could not find any further information. Maybe one of my reader's knows?

The Woman in White is a novel of bigamy, murder, plots, intrigue, madness, fraud, secrets, love story, suspense, mystery, abuse, blackmail, horror, Gothic and psychological type literature. Did I leave anything out?

The novel is divided into three epochs (parts.)
It is written from different narratives. I believe, I counted 7 different voices contributing "their story."

With the famous opening lines the story of The Woman in White begins:

"This is the story of what a Woman's patience can endure, and what a Man's resolution can achieve."

The Woman in White begins with Walter Hartright a man in his late twenties that has accepted a position as a drawing teacher to two sisters named Marian and Laura. Before he leaves for his new position he walks to Hampstead Cottage to visit his mother and sister. While walking on the road back to London he encounters a strange and mysterious woman in white. She accompanies him during much of their journey. Mr. Hartright is as guardedly-friendly as possible, all the while wondering why this odd woman would be out late at night and would choose to walk with him. At the outskirts of London they part. Later in the novel we will be re-introduced to both this woman and how she will become a large part of the story.
Meanwhile, Walter has a dear friend named Pesca. Pesca is a diminutive Italian man. He is a teacher of languages. It was Pesca that had told Walter about the teaching position at Limmeridge House. 
Walter then travels from London to Limmeridge House in Cumberland. He is to teach for four months. During this period he falls in love with Laura. Marian though tells him that Laura is betrothed, and he leaves shortly before his tenure is finished.
Laura's betrothed is Sir Percival Glyde. He is an older man, in his mid-forties. He has no children, a large debt, a title, and a large property in Hampshire. It was apparent from my first introduction to Sir Glyde that he is a villain.
Sir Glyde has a friend (I use that term loosely) also mysterious and eccentric, named Count Fosco of Italy. Fosco has a menagerie of pets. He is married. He too seemed villainous. I waited for the moment he would bite off the head of his bird, this was how evil he seemed to me.
The others in the principal cast are Mrs. Catherick and her daughter Anne.

Each of these characters have intriguing pasts, secrets, some with deceptions and fraud, the ability to murder, and plots and counter-plots.
There were twists and turns, characters that I thought were headed in one direction with "their" story suddenly gave another angle.
At 720 pages it is a lengthy story. I divided sections up by reading 100 pages a day. At no point was I bored; it is a charming book even if the story is filled with high drama that is rather dark and swarthy.
I loved this story and consider it in my top five of most beloved stories I've read!

Published by Penguin Classics 2003
720 pages

Link @ publisher:,,9780141439617,00.html?The_Woman_in_White_Wilkie_Collins

To learn more about the author Wilkie Collins:,,1000007536,00.html

William Wilkie Collins 1824-1889
Link @ Amazon:
Paperback $8.00
Kindle price is 0---Free


  1. I remember liking this book a lot when I read it. I read as part of a "book swap" on Shelfari, where you were partnered up with someone and you HAD to read what they picked for you and vice versa.

    Also - reading through your classics club list - I love your choices! Can't wait till you get to Rob Roy - I wish I had added that to my list.

  2. I just LOVE Wilkie Collins, and this novel is one of my favorites. I'm not exactly sure which Collins novel is my favorite--I always tend to love the one I've finished last :) I'm reading Queen of Hearts right now and loving it--it is VERY different from Woman in White!

  3. I read this book recently (pre-Classics Club!) and loved it. I had never heard of Wilkie Collins and was surprised how entranced I became in the mystery. I would most certainly check out other books by Collins now.

  4. I enjoyed your review. Count Fosco is one of my favourite villains!

  5. hi Annette! thank you for sharing your thoughts on the book. i quoted a couple of lines from your post for The Classics Club's September meme. here's the link: The Classics Club September meme: Q2


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