Woman in White

Woman in White

Dover Giant Thrift Editions
by Wilkie Collins
Publisher: Penguin Classics
Mass market paperback, 504 pages
List Price: $11.00 Sale Price: $9.35

One of the first mystery novels, The Woman in White remains one of the best. It chronicles the appearance of a ghostly woman on an English estate and the efforts of Walter Hartright to unravel her identity. Madness, terror, fire, and family secrets give this the feel of a gothic novel, but the absence of sentimentality and supernaturalism prove it's a modern thriller.

Collins (a friend of Charles Dickens) mastered a device few writers can—multiple narrators tell a single story. Characters as diverse as Hartright, an obese Italian count named Fosco, and the housekeeper of Blackwater Park (there are eleven narrators altogether) contribute to the complex tale. Each narrator has a distinct voice that captures their social status, level of education, and powers of observation, a truly formidable feat accomplished with efficiency and brilliance.

A novel about class distinctions and greed, The Woman in White transcends the modern mystery genre it helped create. By exploring universal themes, it helps us see the world in clearer focus. Dickens himself praised Collins highly, and this structurally groundbreaking novel shows us why.

Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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