Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins

This is my first review since I joined The Classics Club, yay! 

I think I chose a great book to start this year. I’m a big fan of detective and suspense stories (I think they were called “sensation novels” at the time this book was written) but I’m also very hard to please when it comes to them. I’m very happy to say that this is one of the best I have ever read. 

The Woman in White was written by Wilkie Collins in 1859. It tells the story of a horrible conspiracy full of mystery, secrets, danger, love and all the ingredients you could look for in a Gothic-style suspense novel.

I’m not going to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it yet. Walter Hartright is a drawing teacher who meets a mysterious woman dressed in white. He helps her to reach safety and doesn’t expect to ever see her again. He takes a job and moves away from London and as new and exciting events start to unfold, the woman in white appears in the story as the key to solve everything.

I really like that the story was written similar to an epistolary novel. The different styles, tones and points of view of the different people narrating it really made the book so much more interesting.  I loved Miss Halcombe’s part of the story; I think is the most accomplished part of the book. I became so involved in this part that I gasped and said “Nooooo!” out loud many times while reading the extracts of her diary. 

I very much enjoyed Mr. Fairlie’s character, even though he is an obnoxious man. It was really fun actually hearing him speak in my mind, with his affected manners and constantly posing as the victim of absolutely everything and everyone. He is positively ridiculous and I admit I laughed with his absurdities.

Count Fosco’s character is also very interesting. He could be extremely joyful, amiable and sensitive and also Machiavellian, cold and cynical. He is the one person of this whole story that I would be actually terrified to meet. 

I didn’t like Laura Fairlie’s character, too much of a damsel in distress for me, the exact opposite of her sister, Marian Halcombe. It seemed to me that Laura’s participation throughout the story was limited to crying, panicking and being taken care of by Marian and Walter. I also hated Madame Fosco’s robot-like manners. She remembered me of radical religious fanatics, but instead of being obsessed with religion or God, she was obsessed with her husband. 

There are some very surprising turns of events and up to the final pages of the book, the future of the main characters is uncertain. 

I must say, even though I admired how everything was explained, that every piece of information had its purpose and that at the end of the book we understand absolutely everything that happened, up to the last detail, I didn’t exactly like the way the solution was obtained. I have to be ambiguous here to avoid spoiling the story, but I was hoping that some public punishment or justice would be made and that is incomplete, in my opinion.

In conclusion, I definitely recommend the book. It is one of the best suspense novels I’ve read in a long time, very well thought of, with every little detail having a purpose. It is a real page-turner and I understand why it was called a sensation novel. It really catches the reader and doesn’t let go until the mystery is discovered. 


Caro said...

I've been meaning to read this book for months now, but up until now I had no clear idea what the book was about. It seems a fabulous read and I really look forward to getting my hands on it.

Melissa Vizcarra said...

I really enjoyed reading it, I didn't leave my bedroom an entire weekend trying to figure out what the mystery was :).

mystery girl on the train said...

Hi Melissa,
I definitely agree with you. I'm reading the Woman in White at the moment. I'm about half-way through. My favourite bit is Miss Halcombe’s diary. She is by far my favourite character in the book. I think she’s a wonderfully strong female character, especially for the period. This is such a long book and at times I thought some of the revelations were quite slow, having said that, certain sections have been incredibly gripping. I was wondering if Laura would ever meet the woman in white, and I still don't know what, when and how Sir Percival's secret will be revealed. I was racing through Miss Halcombe's adventure on the windowsill too! Collins is very good at building up suspense. I’ve just bought Collins’ the Moonstone so I’ll be reading that sometime soon.

Melissa Vizcarra said...

Hi Mystery Girl!
I really want to read other books by Wilkie Collins too. I really liked this one and it was such a surprise to find a great suspense and mystery classic.