The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

October 16, 2019

5 / 5 Stars

 

A classic that lives up to the hype.

This is yet another of those books that I've been meaning to read for years, and finally I've got around to it.

I was kind of expecting a 'typical' classic literature experience. I.e. rewarding, worth reading, but ultimately somewhat challenging in places (largely due to language evolving over time / writers being more wordy back in the day). However, The Woman in White was surprisingly accessible, without feeling 'dumbed down'.

 


The plot

Walter is a drawing teacher. Right at the start, he has a strange encounter with a woman dressed entirely in white, who seems to be fleeing from somewhere, or someone. He then heads out to a manor house to teach two young women; Laura (who is passive and innocent) and Marian (forthright and active). He falls in love with Laura, only to find that she's betrothed to someone else - the dreadful Sir Percival.

The woman in white re-appears, to warn against this marriage, but to no avail. Walter leaves, and Laura and Marian are left at the mercy of Percival, not to mention his villainous friend, Count Fosco...
 

My review

Reading this, I can well understand why people regard it as the first detective novel. Although there's no actual detective in it, the entire plot is based on secrecy and gradual revelation. There are also some cracking characters in it, especially the threatening yet outwardly affable Fosco, and the foul-tempered Sir Percival.

It's surprisingly pacey, and definitely a page-turner. In fact, there were a few twists that genuinely surprised me, which is always enjoyable. As for elements of the supernatural; the classic aspects of a gothic novel are there; the eerie manor, the silent, ghostly woman, the graveyard and so on. However, it felt more like a mystery to me (and there was nothing wrong with that at all).

Definitely one that everyone should give a try - it's a real page-turner.

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