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The Woman in White (Penguin Classics) [Mass Market Paperback]

Wilkie Collins , Matthew Sweet
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Nov 1999 0140437312 978-0140437317 New edition
Like few novels before it, The Woman in White thrilled readers across England when it debuted in 1860. It famously opens with Walter Hartright's eerie encounter on a moonlit road. Engaged as a drawing-master to beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into 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 corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is the first and most influential of the Victorian "sensation" novels, a phenomenon explored in detail in Matthew Sweet's new Introduction. This edition contains three appendices, which include a synopsis of the play Collins produced of his novel and its reception, as well as an account of the novel's composition.


Product details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (25 Nov 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140437312
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140437317
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 12.2 x 3.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (363 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,056,217 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wilkie Collins was born in London in 1824, the eldest son of the landscape painter William Collins. In 1846, having spent five years in the tea business, he was entered to read for the bar at Lincoln's Inn, where he gained the legal knowledge that was to give him much material for his writing.

From the early fifties, he was a friend of Charles Dickens, acting with him, contributing to Household Words, travelling with him on the Continent. Dickens produced and acted in two melodramas written by Collins, The Lighthouse (1855) and The Frozen Deep (1857).

Collins is best remembered for his novels, particularly The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), which T. S. Eliot called 'the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels'. His later, and at the time rather sensational, novels include The New Magdalen (1873) and The Law and The Lady (1875). Collins also braved the moral censure of the Victorian age by keeping two women (and their households) while marrying neither. He died in 1889.


Product Description

Review

"To convey the sensationalism of The Woman in White, Bachman and Cox wisely choose the original, serialized version as their copy text. A thoughtful introduction places the novel in context, explaining its importance to sensation fiction, outlining its concern with the problem of identity and with constructions of madness, and discussing its narrative structure as well as its later stage adaptation. The appendices are especially useful, with their material on Victorian gender ideologies and Victorian psychology, including letters, articles, and reports illuminating the 'panic' over false incarceration for insanity."--Lillian Nayder --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

'A hypochondriac uncle, two girls who look identical, a count with a penchant for mesmerism and vanilla bonbons, a lunatic asylum, an evil husband... What more could you want?' - Maggie O'Farrell --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
80 of 82 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely excellent - read it already! 14 Mar 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
Wonderfully entertaining stuff - this is essentially a pre-television soap opera, much like the novels of Dickens or George Eliot.
The essentials of the story are as follows: our hero is a young painter hired as tutor to a young heiress. The lady in question is remarkably pretty, innocent, sweet-tempered (etc etc) and inevitably our hero falls for her hook, line & sinker. Needless to say the path of true love doesn't run smoothly and not only are they separated, but the heiress is subject to the wicked plots of marvellously nefarious villains.
Sounds cheesy as anything, I know; but the story is fast paced, convoluted and frequently (intentionally!) very funny. Because Collins employs a first person narrative technique, telling his tale through one character's diary then another one's letters, we are allowed an insight into the thoughts and speech patterns of a wide range of characters. Some of them are downright hilarious - particularly our heroine's outrageously camp uncle. As so often happens, it is the secondary (and indeed bit-part) characters who are the most entertaining - the fabulous Marianne (just wait till you read that initial description of her appearance! The contrast between standards of beauty now & then is remarkable...although granted it sounds like she needed immac for that top lip of hers) and the indomitable Count with his pet white mice scampering around, to name my two favourites - and undoubtedly your own. What are you waiting for?
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eat your heart out Raymond Chandler 9 May 2003
Format:Paperback
A barnstorming doorstop (pardon the mixed metaphores) of a book. Has to be read at one sitting, I know I've done it, and according to the blurb so did Gladstone. So no slacking at the back. The characterisation is magnificently overdone, the plot is brilliantly worked out. It's got remote asylums, spooky mansions, ghostly apparitions, swirling fogs and the first sight of "The Woman in White". Oh how I envy you, just drop your modernist standards and have a good old fashioned wallow. Throw another log on the radiator send the kids to your mother for the weekend (there's approx 2 inches of paperback to get through) give in and get on with it.
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50 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The most wonderful book I have ever read 7 Jun 2001
Format:Paperback
I took a few pages to click into the Victorian narrative but once I was into it, it gripped from start to finish. This book has the most wonderfully drawn characters and because it switches narrators several times ( Wilkie Collins does this to great effect also in 'The Moonstone') you are just getting lulled into the perspective of one person, when you are then gently jolted and led along by another.
If you want a book with love, romance, mystery and an undercurrent of the sinister running through it I promise you will not be disappointed. You will then be so hooked by Wilkie Collin's writing style that you will want to devour the rest of his books immediately.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This advice for writing serial romances, alternately attributed to Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Charles Reade, is epitomized in this 1860 novel by Collins, a story of thwarted love, a marriage of obligation, claims on inheritance, the victimization of women, and, most of all, engaging mystery. Collins, often credited as the father of the mystery genre, creates a fast-paced story of Victorian England, revealing much about Victorian society and its values--the role of women, the laws governing marriage and inheritance, the social institutions of the day, the contrasting attitudes toward the aristocracy and the lower classes, and even the level of medical care and the treatment of psychological illness.

When drawing master Walter Hartright is on his way to teach Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie at Limmeridge House, in Cumberland, England, he meets a "woman in white," a young woman who knows Limmeridge House well because she was mentored by Mrs. Fairlie, Laura Fairlie's deceased mother. The "woman in white" is Anne Catherick, who looks just like Laura, but who is an escapee from a nearby mental asylum. Upon his arrival at Limmeridge House, Walter immediately falls in love with the beautiful Laura, but she has made a deathbed pledge to her father to marry to Sir Percival Glyde, someone Anne Catherick despises and blames for her own incarceration. Throughout the novel, Anne visits various characters to offer help in combating Sir Percival and his cohorts.

The story unfolds through documents held by a variety of characters, each of whom tells the story from his/her own point of view.
Read more ›
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAME TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This advice for writing serial romances, alternately attributed to Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Charles Reade, is epitomized in this 1860 novel by Collins, a story of thwarted love, a marriage of obligation, claims on inheritance, the victimization of women, and, most of all, engaging mystery. Collins, often credited as the father of the mystery genre, creates a fast-paced story of Victorian England, revealing much about Victorian society and its values--the role of women, the laws governing marriage and inheritance, the social institutions of the day, the contrasting attitudes toward the aristocracy and the lower classes, and even the level of medical care and the treatment of psychological illness.

When drawing master Walter Hartright is on his way to teach Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie at Limmeridge House, in Cumberland, England, he meets a "woman in white," a young woman who knows Limmeridge House well because she was mentored by Mrs. Fairlie, Laura Fairlie's deceased mother. The "woman in white" is Anne Catherick, who looks just like Laura, but who is an escapee from a nearby mental asylum. Upon his arrival at Limmeridge House, Walter immediately falls in love with the beautiful Laura, but she has made a deathbed pledge to her father to marry to Sir Percival Glyde, someone Anne Catherick despises and blames for her own incarceration. Throughout the novel, Anne visits various characters to offer help in combating Sir Percival and his cohorts.

The story unfolds through documents held by a variety of characters, each of whom tells the story from his/her own point of view.
Read more ›
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