Friday, January 28, 2011

The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins (Post #2)

This is the second of two posts on The Woman in White. To read the first post written halfway through the novel click here. Also, this post is more of a discussion of the book than a strict review and therefore contains SPOILERS. I have included a final paragraph which summarizes without any spoilers, the start of which is indicated. 
Although I had enjoyed the first half of The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, I was particularly excited going into the second half as that is where the action appears to pick up and I was definitely right. Even though the second half of the novel contains more action than the first, it is still told carefully and not at all rushed. However the reader is so drawn into the novel that even though there may be three hundred pages left, it becomes near-impossible to put down.

One aspect I particularly appreciated about the second half of The Woman in White was the fact that Collins made mention of the characters who had seemingly disappeared from the narrative, in particular Walter's sister, mother and friend. Walter explains that he has only included individuals when they are directly relevant to the story at hand, much like in a courtroom where only the necessary facts are presented. This both explained their absence, which had been bothering me, and emphasized the unique manner in which Collins tells the story of The Woman in White.

My initial impressions of most of the characters in the novel were not altered by the end of it. Overall I found Walter particularly bland, and lacked sympathy for Laura. I was disappointed that there were no more sections told from the perspective of Marian, given how much I enjoyed her narration style, but that was compensated for by one of my favourite portions of the novel- that written in the voice of Frederick Fairlie, Laura's anxious uncle. After previously introducing the reader to Frederick, it was both entertaining and enjoyable to hear the story told from his perspective. Frederick's section re-enforces whiny nature and includes such gems as:  
"Except when the refining process of Art judiciously removes from them all resemblance to Nature, I distinctly object to tears. Tears are scientifically described as a Secretion. I can understand that a secretion may be healthy or unhealthy, but I cannot see the interest of a secretion from a sentimental point of view."
At first I had been conflicted over Count Fosco, although he was clearly quite creepy I wasn't sure if he was going to be the villain in the story. However he most definitely is, and his under your skin type of evil is expertly captured by Collins. A memorable moment for me was when explaining his role in the hoax, he repeatedly says that he only used chemicals twice despite the fact that he could have easily murdered Laura based on his knowledge. The straightforward way he goes about stating this makes it seem as if he believes he should be commended for his kindhearted gesture in not murdering the girl. I absolutely adored his arrogance.

One of the most impressive aspects of The Woman in White is the fact that despite so many first person narrations being used Collins gives each character its own unique and distinct voice. The writing style alone makes it evident which person is speaking. When it comes to the story itself,  all the elements of the mystery all fell perfectly into place towards the ending of the novel, and although they may have fit slightly too perfectly, it only seemed fitting giving the amount of time Collins spent developing them. Also, even though the fate of the Count is probably the most convenient of these, I didn't find it bothered me because it was just so perfect for things to turn out that way for him.


Ultimately, I found The Woman in White to be a remarkably easy to read classic despite its length. The language flows easily, and while Collins is often wordy it allows for his biting sense of humour to come through. The novel certainly takes awhile to get started, but the result is that the reader really gets to know the characters involved. The characters themselves are well developed and believable, even if there two of the major ones, specifically Walter and Laura, got on my nerves at times. Overall, The Woman in White is an intricate and engaging novel and I certainly have plans to read more by Collins in the future.

Release Date: 1860
Pages: 672
Overall: 4/5
Source: Ebook (
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  1. I am so glad you enjoyed it! I felt the same way you did about Laura. I wanted her to "man up" a bit. Although, I suppose being sane in a mental institution really has to shake you up.

    Fairlie's little part was also quite funny. He had such a distinct voice. LOVED it.

    I am so glad Collins wrote the novel in this way. It made it far more interesting to put the pieces together at the end and discover the villainy of Fosco. What a disturbing man, yeah?

    Anyway, thank you so much for participating. In a few more days when everyone has their posts up, I'll be sending an e-mail to you to explain your "Reward."

  2. I am not into classics but want to give this one a try. It does sound good and long.... :-)

  3. I am so glad that other readers were as entertained by Mr. Fairlie as I was!! :)


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