The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

23rd February 2012

*I bought this book and placed it as decor on my nightstand…where it remained for almost two years.

When I first began blogging, a bunch of bloggers were salivating over this book. At the time, I thought you were all nutters and wondered why in the hell this book was suddenly getting so much attention. A couple of weeks ago, I found out when I read this sensation novel morning, noon, and night, barely leaving its pages to eat. The Woman in White is one of those books which the reading of I can only compare to having the flu. Palms are sweaty. Your limbs ache from staying in whatever reading position you choose for far too long. There is a distinct desire for someone other than yourself to do any cleaning/cooking/feeding. You do not leave your pajamas.

Why? I’m going to purposefully simplify this plot: Dude gets a job teaching art. Said dude runs into a woman in white the night before he leaves for his new post. Chick is kind of crazy and has escaped from an asylum. Art teacher is unsettled, but he’s off to his new post, which includes two young women, an older sister, Marian, and her half-sister, Laura…who looks exactly like the crazy chick. She’s supposed to marry a titled man about whom the family has received anonymous warnings. There are serious things a-happenin’, and art teacher gets out of the mix, leaving the sister and the family lawyer to tell the tale of what happens after Laura and the count say “I do.”

Sir Whatsit is a vile man, but his Italian buddy who comes to live with the couple is even more dastardly. There are big plans to get money from the new bride, and these men will stop at nothing, NOTHING, I tell you, to get their hands on that dough. And you thought the crazed woman in white was gone? Surprise. She’s back. And it’s spooky. Plus, art teacher who’s in love with the blond, slim Laura (of course) is back to lay claim on his lovey-dovey. Bad guys get told. There’s a happy ever after.

Lessons learned: Men are evil. Men without money are evil-er.

Another lesson learned: Ugly women are smart. Mostly. Except when they’re busy being weak. Pretty women are always weak.

This novel is Gothic and sensational and fun and long and suspenseful, and ultimately, I loved it.

For a free egalley of this, go to Project Gutenberg. If you want to know the ins and outs before you read and don’t want my ridiculously-simplified plot, go here:

Man of La Book

The Lit Bitch

things mean a lot

Yvette Can Draw


  • I read this book over the summer while in London and I loved it! πŸ™‚ The creepy nature of villains was only amplified while reading it amid gray skies and English thunderstorms. While I thought the middle dragged a bit, the end made the journey totally worth it. πŸ™‚

    • Oooh, how perfect. The beginning was what dragged for me, but once I was in it, it was so totally worth it. And Sir Percival was incredibly creepy, as was the count. I just wanted to backhand both of them for most of the novel. So frustrating to not be able to do that. πŸ˜‰

  • Anonymous

    LOVE this book, so glad you enjoyed!

    • I did indeed. So glad I finally got around to pulling it off my shelf.

  • OK, I’ve been planning on reading this one for yrs now! The closest I got was reading Dan Simmon’s Drood. Lame, I know.

    • I’ve picked Drood up a couple of times. Did you like it? It looked intriguing.

      And not lame, but you should read this one. So good!

  • I knew you would love it! I bought this and read it on a whim years ago and I loved it, too.

    • I bought it after so many bloggers were reviewing it, but it just languished on the nightstand. So glad I decided it was time to read it. πŸ™‚

  • Love this review Jenn! We read this as part of our work book club a few years ago and while it wasn’t the easiest of reads we all really enjoyed it. Love Wilkie Collins!

    And this: Another lesson learned: “Ugly women are smart. Mostly. Except when theyÒ€ℒre busy being weak. Pretty women are always weak. ” Yup.

    • Thanks, Trish! Once I got into it, I had no problem. It was just the first 50-100 pages that dragged for me, but I ended up really enjoying it. Glad you did too.

      And yeah – I just couldn’t resist. A lot of sensation novels follow that rule exactly.

  • Anonymous

    This is one of my favorite books, and it stands up to rereading! I also recommend The Moonstone and Armadale, especially Armadale.

    • Hm. I’ve heard a lot about Moonstone, but no one has mentioned Armadale. I’ll look for it at the library today. Thanks for the recommendation!

  • I enjoyed this book as well and I also recommend The Moonstone.

    • I guess that’s a must-read from what everyone is telling me. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    lol I think that’s a pretty good summary! And if you read The Moonstone next, you have to promise to pronounce it, “Moooooooonstone.” πŸ˜‰

    • That will, in fact, be the title of my review. πŸ™‚

  • Love your review. Love the lessons learned, more. I read this while I was working in an office a few years ago – I had the novel emailed to me and on slow days would read chapters between, you know, actual work tasks. And what I remember most is feeling sick at the end of every day, because I wasn’t able to tear myself away from the computer screen for a single minute until I finished the novel, and then The Moonstone.

    • Ha! Thanks. I couldn’t resist. And yes, I can imagine getting to that point and not being able to leave it. Sign of a good book, there.

  • Violet

    Wilkie Collins was such an interesting man. I love his books, but his unconventional life is even more fascinating. The Woman in White is a wonderful Gothic tale. So glad you liked it.

    • I really know absolutely nothing about him, so now I’m off to Google. Thanks for the tip. I love reading about people’s lives.

  • Anonymous

    I’m am still embarrassed to admit that I have not read a single thing by Wilkie Collins (who I routinely get confused with Connie Willis, even though one is a man and the other is a woman!). I actually picked this one up a few years back (also in response to rabid blogger fervor) and while I was enjoying it, I also could tell I just wasn’t in the right mindframe to really love it, so I set it aside. I suppose I should try it again?

    • Eh – don’t be. There are plenty of authors I’ve not yet read. I picked this one up several times before finally taking the plunge and reading past the first fifty pages. So it did take some getting into for me. I really enjoyed it though.

  • Samantha 1020

    I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed this one so much! I read it awhile back and enjoyed it as well although I felt that the middle section dragged. I never got around to sharing my thoughts on it and I sure wish that I would have. Maybe I’ll reread it at some point and review it then…

    • I felt the first part dragged, but several people have mentioned the middle as well. I guess, for me, the tension kept building so I was ok with it. But definitely post thoughts if you get a chance!