Monday, January 10, 2011

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins Book Review

Summary from

One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White was a phenomenal bestseller in the 1860s, achieving even greater success than works by Dickens, Collins' friend and mentor. Full of surprise, intrigue, and suspense, this vastly entertaining novel continues to enthrall readers today. 

The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue. 

Masterfully constructed, The Woman in White is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction: Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant "Napoleon of Crime." 

The Woman in WhiteThe Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I began reading this book because of Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical version of this book.  I am a huge Michael Crawford fan, and he was in the musical in England.  I even have the soundtrack.  I had listened to soundtrack once, but of course, I didn't understand it.  I had read a couple people's reviews of the story, and I thought I should give it a try.

I began reading this, and it did not begin slowly as so many classics do.  I used to joke that classics were always slow for the first 50 pages.  It was rare to find one that captured your attention from the beginning.  I think this one captured me almost from the beginning.  Wilkie Collins puts you right into the midst of the story, and you, as the reader, are not even truly sure of what is going on.  You want to keep reading.

My two favorite characters were Marian and Count Fosco.  (That is actually ironic.  You'll have to read the book to catch my meaning.)

I liked Marian because she was such a strong woman.  I love it when male authors--especially the classics--are able to write about strong women who really impact the story.  And yet she remains feminine in spite of it all.  The only sad thing is that she never marries.  It's the wimpy Laura who gets married and has a child.  Go figure.  I guess strong women back then didn't get married.  At least according to Wilkie Collins.

I enjoyed the character of Count Fosco because he was so devilishly evil and yet so likable.  I kept imagining how Michael Crawford would have played the part--he would have been ideal.

I truly enjoyed the mystery in the book.  I did not have everything figured out--there were so many layers and twists and turns!  Goodness!  Easily the best mystery I have read in ages.

I would say the only reasons someone would not like the book is that it is long, and it is written in Victorian language instead of our modern-day lingo.  I would recommend this as a mystery and as a classic.  I look forward to reading more Wilkie Collins!

View all my reviews

And the great news is that this fulfills the first requirement in the Mystery and Suspense challenge over at Book Chick City.  One down, twelve to go!


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