My review of THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins

Written by: Elisa English (Copyrighted)

I couldn’t recall what prompted me to purchase the book “The Woman in White” by “Wilkie Collins” sixteen years ago.  Maybe I was sold on the deeply discounted price of $1.  This book could have sat on my bookshelf for another eighteen years if not for my son’s meddling with the books on the bookshelf.  He was trying to find a book to read.  This book, like many others, was sitting there alone, quietly, covered with dust.  I have the impulse of buying books whenever I am in a bookstore.  After the purchase, the books will sit on my bookshelves, waiting for my mood to strike.  For this one, it had sat there for over sixteen years before I finally picked it up.  There are still numerous books on the bookshelves waiting for me to devour. 


This is the first time I read a Wilkie Collins’ novel.  I was somewhat intrigued and enthralled by his ingenious story-telling, which uses multiple narrators, each with a distinctive narrative voice in the form of epistolary.  This form of narrative offers the most insight into each character and Wilkie Collins adroitly depicts the various viewpoints and thoughts of multiple characters with events intertwined without confusing the readers and losing the first-person viewpoint of immediacy.  His novels in his early age such as “The Woman in White”, “No Name” and “The Moonstone” were well constructed.  Often, he weaves an intricate mystery, with labyrinthine plots, embellished in rich rhetoric.  Though sometimes extravagant with florid prose, his early novels are nevertheless filled with copiousness of thought and elaborately contrived with sublime dexterity, displaying a striking depth of psychological insight.


“The Woman in White” is an archetypal Victorian novel, in which peril, romance, violence, revenge, madness, gothic mystery, woman entrapment, proto-feminism and heightened emotion prevail.  Talking about Gothic Romanticism, of which “Wuthering Heights” epitomizes the masterpiece.  If you like Gothic Romance, I would recommend reading “Wuthering Heights”.  This is my review of it.  


“The Woman in White”, though incomparable to “Wuthering Heights”, does strike as a riveting melodrama, entrancingly written, with unforgettable characters so resonant and evocative.  Truth can be elusive as told in omniscient point of view. 


In his novel, you can detect his opposition to marriage and rebellion against social pretense.  He lived in bigamy, enjoying unorthodox sexual relationships.  He is called the "Dickensian Ampersand" for his keen affiliation with Charles Dickens.  Traces of Charles Dickens’s style can be found in his novel as a result of their mutual influences. 


I would recommend reading this novel for his intricacy of characterization and the psychological intrigue.  However, I have to warn you that his flowery writing style can sometimes turn passages lengthy and wordy, which may prove hard to stomach.  It took me two weeks to finish reading this novel.  I was exhausted but captivated throughout the 569 pages.  If you are interested in reading the exact copy I read, it is a Penguin Popular Classics, published in 1994.   


By the way, you can find more reviews from me and the books I recommended at the links below.

** 版權所有 – Elisa English


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