The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

EXCERPT: ‘In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop… There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth, stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white’

ABOUT THIS BOOK: The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter becomes embroiled in the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons, and poison. Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian genre that combined Gothic horror with psychological realism.

MY THOUGHTS: There is some beautifully evocative writing at the start of the book that had me almost salivating. It was promising a deliciously creepy read. . . that never happened.

I believe that The Woman in White was first published as a serial in 1859, which may explain it’s interminable length. Yes, I have read longer books, and enjoyed them, but the Woman in White seems even longer than its 672 pages. It could easily do with losing at least one third of its length. There is so much irrelevant information thrown at the reader that I completely missed out on the connection between Laura Fairlie (Lady Glyde) and the ill-fated Anne Catherick until, frustrated at the end (but oh so glad to be there!) I turned to the Internet to search for the information.

The story itself has many narrators, which Collins himself points out in the preface, and so we get multiple versions of the same story to little effect, a little like listening to the witnesses in a court case where they are all determined to present themselves and their motives in the best possible light.

The characters are largely vapid (insipid, uninspired, colourless, uninteresting, feeble, flat, dead, dull, boring, tedious, tired, unexciting, uninspiring, unimaginative, lifeless, zestless, spiritless, sterile, anaemic, tame, bloodless, jejune, vacuous, bland, stale, trite, pallid, wishy-washy, watery, tasteless, milk-and-water, flavourless).

The story itself, when cut down to its bare bones, is rather clever and focuses on the lack of rights of married women at the time. Honestly? I would love to see this rewritten by Stephen King because, other than the first encounter between Walter Hartright and the woman in white, there is no creepiness whatsoever and I fail to understand how this can be classified as Gothic Horror.


THE AUTHOR: William Wilkie Collins (8 January 1824 – 23 September 1889) was an English novelist, playwright, and short story writer. His best-known works are The Woman in White (1859), No Name (1862), Armadale (1866) and The Moonstone (1868). The last is considered the first modern English detective novel.

Born into the family of painter William Collins in London, he lived with his family in Italy and France as a child and learned French and Italian. He worked as a clerk for a tea merchant. After his first novel, Antonina, was published in 1850, he met Charles Dickens, who became a close friend, mentor and collaborator. Some of Collins’s works were first published in Dickens’ journals All the Year Round and Household Words and the two collaborated on drama and fiction.

Collins published his best known works in the 1860s and achieved financial stability and an international reputation. During that time he began suffering from gout. After taking opium for the pain, he developed an addiction. During the 1870s and 1880s the quality of his writing declined along with his health.

Collins was critical of the institution of marriage and never married; he split his time between Caroline Graves, except for a two-year separation, and his common-law wife Martha Rudd, with whom he had three children.

DISCLOSURE: I listened to one of the audiobook versions of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, a very old one I think, which had been copied from tapes. I would not recommend it. The narrators, and there were several, were largely unaccomplished and at times painful to listen to. They, and particularly one of the male narrators, stumbled over words, ignored punctuation, paused in very odd places and drew out the length of wooorrrdddss when they lost their place in the script. Not to be recommended.

All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

Please refer to my profile page or the about page on for an explanation of my rating system.

This review and others are also published on my page


Author: sandysbookaday

I love good quality chocolate. I love the ocean and love to be in, on or beside it. I read any and every where. I am a proud mum and Nana. I like wine, gin, Southern Comfort, a cold Heineken on a hot day. I am very versatile like that. I cross stitch, do jigsaws, garden, and work on a farm. I am an occasional scribbled. I have far too many books I want to read to ever find the time to die. I am an active member of Goodreads as Sandy *the world could end while I was reading and I would never notice* and review on Amazon under the name Sandyj21. My Goodreads reviews are automatically linked to my Facebook page. Groups I belong to and participate in on Goodreads include: The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group; Mysteries and Crime Thrillers; Psychological Thrillers; Reading for Pleasure; Crime Detective Mystery Thrillers; English Mysteries; Dead Good Crime; Kindle English Mystery, All About Books and NZ Readers. April 2016 I made the Top 1% of Goodreads reviewers (As follows) Hello Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*, In our community of readers, you stand out in a notable way: You're one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads! With every rave and every pan, with every excited GIF and every critical assessment, you've helped the Goodreads community get closer to a very important milestone – the 50 Million Reviews mark!

7 thoughts on “The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins”

  1. I guess our measures of creepiness have changed–but this one if I’m not wrong is more often categorised as a mystery/sensation novel rather than purely a horror story. Sorry you didn’t like this more. Personally, I prefer the Moonstone to this one, though I didn’t mind this either. I like that his female characters are always very strong like Marian (?) in this one

    Liked by 1 person

    1. She was really the only strong one. I think I may have enjoyed this more if I had actually read it rather than listening to a substandard audio. Thanks for the tip about Moonstone. I might give that a try, but not on audio 😎

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love this book! I read it back in high school and since then it has remained one of my favorite classics. I personally think it is highly underrated, trumped by horrors like Dracula and Frankenstein. But The Woman in White was so much scarier to me because of how real it was. There weren’t vampires or werewolves and instead just evil characters. Wilkie Collins is such an underrated author in general!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderfully honest review! It helps to know that you listened to it rather than reading it yourself because I’d like to read this book at some point, and I was disappointed that you didn’t like it! But narration makes SUCH a big difference when it comes to audiobooks. There might be some hope for it yet!

    Liked by 1 person

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