The Woman In White

Such was the immediate appeal of Wilkie Collins’s masterpiece ‘The Woman In White’ that, among other notable personages, ‘Thackeray is said to have sat up all night to read the exciting tale…..Gladstone cancelled a theatre engagement rather than interrupt his reading’. ( Vincent Starrett)

Here is the title page and frontispiece of the edition that I finished reading yesterday. Starrett’s introduction is knowledgeable and informative and contains no spoilers. Like him, I will not disclose the story.

It is perhaps fitting that the author of his other famous book, ‘The Moonstone’, accredited with being the first detective novel, has constructed a series of interwoven plots which keep us guessing from start to finish. The tense suspense is maintained throughout.

The sometimes complex characters are well drawn; dialogue is credible and clearly presented. Perhaps the author’s early legal training influenced his choice of narratives given by the different protagonists.

The prose races along without resorting to brief journalistic sentences. Descriptions of place and time are well seen, and Collins uses weather and atmosphere such as a stagnant pool, fog, or precipitations to feature the moods of his characters.

Ends are all ultimately quite naturally tied together. Why, in particular, does one Italian friend disappear from the story to emerge in an important sequence in due course?

The artist’s full page illustrations have been hand coloured after photogravure printing. The black and white drawings occupy half their pages.