Classic Friday #5: The Woman in White

26 Apr

Classic Friday

Welcome to Classic Friday with Nisha Moodley, your monthly journey into Classic authors and their Literature!

Nisha MoodleyNisha is a South African writer, blogger, amateur historian, mystery-chaser and former ghost-hunter who, with a completed collection of short-stories under her belt, is currently working on her first full-length novel.

I hope you enjoy this ‘Classic Friday’ entry and I’ll be back next month for some more.




GENRE: 19th century Detective/Mystery Fiction


NO. OF PAGES: 728 (My copy: Collins Classic)

the-woman-in-whiteDescribed as one of the very first sensation novels, first –time readers were captivated by Wilkie Collins’ story, The Woman In White when it was first released in serial form in 1859. Apparently, a true-life case of the wrongful abduction and incarceration of a woman in a mental institute in the 18th century was the inspiration for this classic piece of fiction, in which the complex plot leaves little to be desired for the action-seeking reader.


 Drawing-teacher Walter Hartright has secured himself a new job that takes him away from his mother and sister, to the village of Limmeridge. En route to his new employment, he meets a strange woman on the road late at night. Dressed all in white, the young lady’s anxious and erratic behaviour tells of distressing circumstances which she doesn’t reveal to Walter. Instead she asks his help in accompanying her to London. On the journey a strange coincidence is revealed as Walter finds that the lady is well acquainted with the area of Limmeridge and the very people he will be working for.

 After the two part ways, the teacher learns that the eccentric woman was in fact escaping from a mental asylum when she bumped into Walter, and he inadvertently had a hand in her escape. Once at Limmeridge, Walter meets his new students: Marian Halcombe and the beautiful Laura Fairlie -half-sisters who are totally devoted to each other. As the weeks pass by, he finds himself falling more and more in love with Laura. When he finds out that Laura has been promised to another man, one Sir Percival Glyde, Walter is heartbroken.

 Considering the situation, he decides to leave Limmeridge after only 3 months of employment. Before he does however, curious incidents present themselves that leave both Walter and Marian anxious for Laura’s future. An anonymous letter to the bride-to-be, warning of Sir Glyde’s character, sets Walter and Marian off on an investigation to search for the sender. The search proves fruitless until one night

Walter bumps into none other than Anne Catherick – his white-clad acquaintance who had escaped from the asylum. It was Anne who had sent Laura the letter but was at the same time evasive about details concerning Percival Glyde. Anne leaves Limmeridge prematurely before Walter can find out any more. With doubts cast on Anne’s sanity, Laura’s marriage to Percival goes ahead as planned as heartbroken Walter leaves England for South America. He will return a year later however but not before Percival begins to show his true colours when it is too late. Laura’s future seems doomed. Under the influence of his best friend, the sinister Count Fosco, Percival has ensnared Laura in a wicked trap and it’s now up to stalwart Marian to save her sister from the two conniving men in Walter’s absence.


Wilkie Collins

Wilkie Collins

Well-thought out, Wilkie Collins has woven an intricate plot, with plenty of secrets waiting to be revealed. His narrative style warrants an examination in itself. Written in the first person, the whole story is told in the form of letters and journal entries from the various characters involved- the typical epistolary novel.

Each character tells his or her version of events, slowly unravelling the mystery to the reader. It’s the same epistolary style Collins employed in his other famous novel, The Moonstone. It’s a technique that works for the purpose of the story, creating suspense and uncertainty in the reader. The conflicting reports (which often occur when multiple witnesses are asked to give testimony) are ingeniously crafted by Collins; and it all comes together as our protagonist Walter Hartright tries to piece the puzzle of Glyde and Fosco’s sinister modus operandi together.

Is This Book For You? I recommend this to ANYONE who likes one heck of a good story. And if you happen to be a fan of mystery or the Classics in general, I suggest you buy/order this book immediately. In my book reviews, I tend to point out any faults in a novel for a more comprehensive perspective but with The Woman In White, I was hard-pressed to find any. I could perhaps point out the sentimentality that is inherent in the dialogue but then again I’ve yet to read a first-person 19th century novel in which the narratives are not emotional, sentimental and often dramatic. So this is me being nit-picky 😉

Plus if you like novels that are character-driven you will not be disappointed. Amongst the others, Marian Halcombe is a worthy literary heroine, a wonderful contrast to some of the helpless, delicate female characters you often find in classic novels. Who steals the show, however, is the ominous Count Fosco. Wilkie Collins really outdid himself in creating this antagonist. I’m surprised that the name ‘Fosco’ is not a literary household name or an established eponym for ‘cunning’. That juicy mix of irresistible charm, boldness and lack of moral conscience should serve as the template for the classic Machiavellian villain, for his character is certainly hard to forget.

 With suspense and action on almost every page, and with some memorable characters thrown in, The Woman In White is certainly a difficult book to put down once you start reading…

Author Bio

For a full biography on Wilkie Collins, click here



8 Responses to “Classic Friday #5: The Woman in White”

  1. frenzyofflies April 26, 2013 at 10:14 am #

    Another brilliant job, Nisha, and another book I’m going to have to buy! 🙂 Also… I think I may need to take some lessons from that Count Fosco guy…. 😉

    • Nisha April 26, 2013 at 1:59 pm #

      Oh no Greg, you’re far too sweet and nice to become a Fosco 😉 and thank you, glad you enjoyed my review! 🙂

      • frenzyofflies April 26, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

        Hmm, that’s PRECISELY why I need the lessons… 😉 Cheers Nisha 🙂

  2. shanesbookblog April 26, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Love this! I hope you do this every Friday!

    Nisha you are a fantastic writer! You obviously know that you are very talented but I always like to remind the writers who can unleash emotions and feelings inside of me. (That’s not an easy thing to do)


    I am going on a Mini Vacation this weekend (Actually I am leaving in about 10 minutes)
    I will be camping and getting Lost in the Daniel Boone National Forest alone with my Books and I will also be composing some Poetry of course haha! =]

    I will try to find a copy of “The woman in white” before We leave to go the camp grounds, You have certainly intrigued me with your wonderful review! Thanks for taking the time to work on this and for sharing it with us!

    And thank you to everyone at Artipeeps for all the hard work and dedication you are known for! You spread happiness everywhere you go and you are inspiring the world one day at a time…it’s so darn awesome to witness!

    These Artists you feature truly are a blessing to the world! Guardian Angels protecting the Arts and motivating and inspiring the world…what’s better then that? >=]

    • Nisha April 26, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

      What a lovely comment! Thank you Shane, you’ve made my day! I do try my best and then hope for the best 😉
      I’m envious, camping out in the woods is a great source of inspiration, I’m sure you’ll come back with some great poetry. If you do get a copy of Woman In White, hope you enjoy it, it really is a great story!
      Once again thank you! 🙂

  3. Nisha April 26, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    Reblogged this on In Verbum Scriptum and commented:
    My book review for The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins…

  4. nelle April 26, 2013 at 2:46 pm #

    I’d guess your review is as worthy as the novel itself…

    • Nisha April 26, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Aww, shucks, thanks Nelle, you’re too sweet 🙂

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