Woman in White (Review)

Labels: Great Works


The Woman in White
Wilkie Collins, 1859-60
720 pp.

Book Review by Molly Lundquist
November 2009

One of the earliest detective novels, The Woman in White was a sensation when published over 140 years ago—and, in fact, it helped establish the sub-genre of the "sensation" novel, wildly popular in the 1860's in England. 

Walter Hartright (get the names, here) falls in love with his art student Laura Fairlie—and she with him. Yet Laura is engaged to, and soon marries, Percival Glyde, a man older than she and a titled baron.

After their marriage, Sir Percival strips Laura of her identity and fortune...and the crime story takes off from here. Both Hartright and Laura's beloved half-sister Marian set about to rescue Laura and restore her position in society.

It all makes for delicious reading—stolen inheritance, adultery, insanity, drugs, and a mysterious unidentified figure. Poor half-sister Marian—she of the light moustache, not lovely enough to land a husband—becomes the story's most appealing character, if not in appearance surely in spirit and intelligence! Collins must have rattled some Victorian cages when he created such an independent, resourceful female figure.

This is a long read, but it goes fairly quickly. Still you might consider dividing it up into 2 months... that is if you can stand the suspense.

Take a look at our Reading Guide for The Woman in White.

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