The Woman in White, Paperback Book
4.5 out of 5 (6 ratings)


The Woman in White (1859-60) is the first and greatest 'Sensation Novel'. Walter Hartright's mysterious midnight encounter with the woman in white draws him into a vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

The novel 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'. A masterwork of intricate construction, The Woman in White sets new standards of suspense and excitement, and achieved sales which topped even those of Dickens, Collins's friend and mentor.

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Classic fiction (pre c 1945)
  • ISBN: 9780199535637

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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

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. ***SPOILER ALERT**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. ***SPOILER OVER**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."

Review by

A small group of friends and I read THE WOMAN IN WHITE for a month-long blog read-a-long. I was thrilled when this book got chosen because, honestly, it'd been far too long since I read it and the entire thing felt fresh and new.One of the most fantastic women in literature (in my opinion) occupies the pages of this book. Marian Halcombe is a strong, man-like woman who frequently attacks her own sex with tongue in cheek remarks about their weaknesses. More than that, however, she shows a strength of character that carries the entire story - even so much as to inspire the respect of the goosebump-causing Count Fosco.Speaking of Count Fosco - I don't think there could be a villain who makes my skin crawl more. He's not evil in the typical sense, it's nothing you can actually put a finger on and his admiration of Marian seems to be at total odds with his actions throughout the book. He's a fantastic character and one I aspire to be able to write myself one day.The pace of this book moves so slowly it's nearly impossible to keep your mind from going over and over the details. Each section of the mystery is given to you from the viewpoint of the person who has seen it - much like the testimony of a witness during a murder trial. There are obviously parts of the book that were more shocking back in Collins day then today, but...I still had a blast reading it and even gasped once or twice!I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves murder mysteries. While wordy, it is still not intimidating and relatively easy to read. And.. how can you resist after hearing about the characters of Fosco and Marian?

Review by

This is one of those rare classic novels that recognises the importance of a good story and rounded characters. Count Fosco is one of the most memorable creations of 19th century fiction, and Marian is one ballsy woman - almost unheard of in fiction of that era.

Review by

The spooky classis for excellence. The book is much better than the play and the film. Don't waste your time and read the book.

Review by

Whilst reading the first two-thirds of this book, it was primed in my mind for a 5 star review. But now that I've finished it, I think it's dropped to 4 stars (which still ranks as very good, but not quite reaching personal 'favourite' status).Firstly, to the immense positives - this book is a complex, gripping Victorian detective-style story (albeit without a traditional detective), and despite the novel's size (c. 650 pages) I felt it successfully worked towards dramatically building up and then slowly unravelling the plot. There was no treading water, and I can have no causes for complaint about it aimlessly drifting off at any point. It's one of those books were you hardly dare mention any aspect of the plot for fear of creating a spoiler for the next reader, and it was definitely page-turning for much of the way through. The characters were incredibly well developed, and the larger than life character of the supremely vain Count Fosco was especially memorable - a character I'm sure I will remember for years to come despite my usual inability to remember the plot of any book for more than a nano-second. He really was the most superb villain, full of cunning, power and nerve, his fear-factor heightened fantastically by his patience for the long-game and a calculated ability to never drop his guard as an unimpeachable man of chivalry and position. So despite my own accolades, why did it not quite reach the hallowed status of personal favourite? Gripping as it was, I think it was just played out a little too long for me, and my attention began to wane. I also found it too explained at times - sometimes it's nice to leave the reader with a little work to do themselves, but Collins regularly made a point of stating the obvious (not completely breaking the rule of 'show, don't tell' - more of a case of 'show but then tell as well just in case they don't entirely get it'). Mind you, at times these recaps were much appreciated, saving me from having to thumb back through the book to remind myself again about something which had happened some 200 pages before.A somewhat neglected classic which has deservedly received a resurgence in popularity in recent years ( 1001 books you must read before you die effect, no doubt), if you enjoy Victorian suspense, intrigue, foreboding country houses and dastardly doings you are in for a superb treat.

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