The Woman in White

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Woman in White
by Wilkie Collins

This book always seems to get mentioned in the same breath as Jane Eyre and Rebecca. Those are two of my favorites and so it's surprising that it took me this long to read anything by Collins. That being said, the mystery didn't disappoint.

There are plenty of twists and turns in this gothic tale. I didn't love it quite as much as Rebecca or Jane Eyre, but I think that's because it has a rotating narrative that often feels more informative than captivating. The telling of the story sometimes has a sterile feel, as if the tellers want to leave their emotions out of the equation.

An art instructor, Walter Hartright, travels to Limmeridge house to teach a young woman named Laura Fairlie, whom he falls in love with. Laura, an heiress, is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde. Intertwined in their story is Anne Catherick, the mysterious Woman in White, who has escaped from a mental institution. She makes appearances at the most inopportune times, forcing the main characters to wonder if she is mad or if there is truth buried in her warnings. After Laura marries Sir Percival she quickly realizes he is a cruel, selfish man who only wants her money.

My favorite character was Marian Halcombe, Laura's half-sister and companion. Where Laura is beautiful, but weak, Marian is resourceful and clever. She loves her sister dearly and is willing to do anything to protect her. Sir Percival's devious friend Count Fosco is also delightful. He is cold and calculating where Percival is short-tempered.


My only major disappointment was Marian Halcombe's ending. She was such an intelligent, caring woman and I felt like she deserved more than just becoming Laura's nanny. I do think she was happy, but I wanted more for her. Her happiness seemed so overlooked in the book.


One of the things I loved about the book was the delicious supporting cast. There's Laura's uncle, Frederick Fairlie, a hypochondriac with an obvious disdain for everyone he meets. Then we have Hartright's friend Pesca, an exuberant Italian, and the chilly Mrs. Catherick. There are so many wonderful creations. Also there are some great lines in the book...

"... then, with that courage which women lose so often in the small emergency and so seldom in the great..."

"It is very hard for a woman to confess that the man to whom she has given her whole life is the man of all others who cares least for the gift."

All in all it's a great read. Have any of you read it?


Carl V. Anderson said...

I'm really hoping to get to this one for the R.I.P. Challenge this year. I know enough about it to suspect I will like it a great deal. I really like the latest re-releases of classics in the format you picture at the start of this post. Kind of an old-school look.

Allie said...

This one has been staring at me from my shelf. I think I might have to move it to the nightstand in hopes I can read it soon!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

I love Penguin's new covers too. Unfortunately this one was a library book, so I don't have that beautiful blue book yet.

Carl V. Anderson said...

I would love to go and buy the whole set, but the ol' budget does not have that kind of wiggle room in it right now.

B said...

I read The Moonstone and loved it. This is on my TBR list.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

Brenna - That's good to hear. The Moonstone is next on my list of Collins and I was hoping it was good.