The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

The Woman in White (Barnes & Noble Classics Series)

3.7 315
by Wilkie Collins

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The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes &…  See more details below


The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins, is part of the Barnes & Noble Classics series, which offers quality editions at affordable prices to the student and the general reader, including new scholarship, thoughtful design, and pages of carefully crafted extras. Here are some of the remarkable features of Barnes & Noble Classics:

  • New introductions commissioned from today's top writers and scholars
  • Biographies of the authors
  • Chronologies of contemporary historical, biographical, and cultural events
  • Footnotes and endnotes
  • Selective discussions of imitations, parodies, poems, books, plays, paintings, operas, statuary, and films inspired by the work
  • Comments by other famous authors
  • Study questions to challenge the reader's viewpoints and expectations
  • Bibliographies for further reading
  • Indices & Glossaries, when appropriate
All editions are beautifully designed and are printed to superior specifications; some include illustrations of historical interest. Barnes & Noble Classics pulls together a constellation of influences—biographical, historical, and literary—to enrich each reader's understanding of these enduring works.
One of the greatest mystery thrillers ever written, Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White was a phenomenal bestseller in the 1860s, achieving even greater success than works by Dickens, Collins’s friend and mentor. Full of surprise, intrigue, and suspense, this vastly entertaining novel continues to enthrall readers today.

The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.

Masterfully constructed, The Woman in White is dominated by two of the finest creations in all Victorian fiction—Marion Halcombe, dark, mannish, yet irresistibly fascinating, and Count Fosco, the sinister and flamboyant “Napoleon of Crime.”

Camille Cauti earned a Ph.D. in English from Columbia University. Her dissertation concerns the Catholic conversion trend among the London avant-garde of the 1890s. She has also published articles in Italian-American studies. She works in New York City as an editor and critic.

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From Camille Cauti’s Introduction to Woman in White


The opening line of Wilkie Collins’s enormously popular novel The Woman in White is one of the more confrontational in narrative history: “This is the story of what a Woman’s patience can endure, and what a Man’s resolution can achieve.” It is a statement of mystery as well as a challenge. Pausing here, a reader is likely to wonder about what trials await this poor woman and to speculate on what constitutes her relationship to this resolute man. Is he the cause of her travails, or is he her rescuer? Why must she be forced to endure what one presumes can be only cruelties? And why must she so patiently withstand them at all, rather than fight back herself? Even beyond these contemplations, what are we to make of an author who begins his tale this way? Does he enjoy seeing women suffer, for example? And more important, to what sadistic ends will our own attention be put?

A more famous set of lines preceded this opener on the same page of its first serial installment, and when one contrasts these sentences, Collins’s abruptness and somewhat harsh tone become even more unsettling. The Woman in White appeared first in serial form in Charles Dickens’s weekly publication All the Year Round, from November 26, 1859, to August 25, 1860 (and simultaneously in the United States in Harper’s Weekly, from November 25, 1859, to August 4, 1860). More interestingly, it commenced one column over from the conclusion of Dickens’s novel A Tale of Two Cities, and the juxtaposition of the inspirational final words of Dickens’s text with the chilling first words of Collins’s cannot fail to capture the reader’s attention. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known,” Sydney Carton proclaims in the legendary last line from A Tale of Two Cities, as he goes to the guillotine in place of a better man than he so that this man may return to the woman Carton himself loves. He certainly demonstrates resolution, as well as enacting a personal redemption, in making the ultimate sacrifice, and for the contemporary reader—or today’s reader who wants to perform an interesting comparison—Collins’s hero, no matter who he turns out to be, obviously has a lot to live up to. Sydney Carton is a hard act to follow.

But these brusque new lines of Collins’s signify a larger shift in temperament between the two novels, a move from Dickens’s brilliantly evolved characterizations, vast social sweep and scale, and stateliness of narrative to Collins’s heralding the advent of the pure sensation novel, of which The Woman in White represents an early and prime example. Collins is universally acknowledged as the master of the Victorian sensation novel, a wildly popular genre that managed to transmit the shocks and surprises familiar to readers of hair-raising Gothic novels but that contained no, or generally no, supernatural elements. Yet the usually domestic crimes described in sensation novels—whose authors prided themselves on their realism in opposition to outrageous Gothic conventions—were mainly of a lurid nature and many times were impossible to imagine happening in the real world. As an anonymous critic of the trend argued in the Dublin University Magazine (February 1861), “The spirit of modern realism has woven a tissue of scenes more wildly improbable than the fancy of an average idealist would have ventured to inflict on readers beyond their teens.” Sensation fiction was precursor of the mystery thriller and the detective novel, and it proved extremely attractive to a Victorian audience primed with an appetite for scandal and for shocks that could not be sated by the gruesome accounts of crimes readers devoured in the cheap daily newspapers.

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The Woman in White (Illustrated + link to download FREE audiobook + Active TOC) 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 315 reviews.
fearlessgirl More than 1 year ago
A really good book that has interesting characters and strong plot line,it manages to
give you info slowly but surely and then POW! it all makes sense! Amazingly up to date and relevant even in this day and age,it's also great for re-reading.
Julie_Loya More than 1 year ago
At 635 pages, Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White" is an investment of time. It is, however, an investment worth making. Originally published in book form in 1860, this classic mystery combines intrigue, suspense and just a touch of insanity. Each section is narrated by a different character, so the tone and voice are constantly changing. This is typical in mystery writing today, but it was quite revolutionary in the 19th century. This construction adds an almost trial-like flavor to the mystery as each person's "testimony" adds pieces to the overall puzzle. There are plenty of twists and turns, both in the plot and in the characters. Not everyone is what they seem to be and that makes it all very thrilling. This is not a "sit at the beach" book, but more of a "sit by the fire on a rainy day" book. But, after the first few pages hook you, you'll be wishing for rain.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had a great plot and was beautifully written. However, it seems to take a while for the story to pick up and when it does take off you feel as though you are going in circles. The best was the end since you moved quick, got to the point, and it is where all the interesting aspects of the plot come out. I would recommend this if you have time to kill but if not you might want to pick up another book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Don't be fooled by how boring this book starts out- this is so good!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed reading this book. I love mysteries and Victorian fiction, so this book really kept my interest. Great characters and a truly satisfying ending.
lbaat More than 1 year ago
I was pretty impressed with this book. It is one of the most interesting older books that I have ever read. It kept my attention the whole way through. The characters were very in depth. A few things bothered me about this book, but mostly, it was enjoyable and different!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Even though this was written in 1859 it almost reads like a contemporary novel. I love the way he changes the character giving the narrative. A very well written suspense mystery novel--I am pleasantly surprised.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an outstanding novel with deep plot and character development. It is quite dense with a lot going on and as I read it I felt as though I were there in Victorian England. I finished only to go right back to page 1 to read it all over again.
AutumnHeart More than 1 year ago
I really loved this book. It does take a while to get into the story, but I think that is the case with many books. However, sometimes the slowest starters turn out to be the most amazing. It may start slow but all of sudden you find yourself hanging on each word, anticipating the next move of the characters. I loved, unlike more modern mystery/suspense novels, that the actions of these characters is much more subtle due to the time period the story is set. It gives another layer of complexity that really took hold of me while I read it. I gave it four stars, instead of five, because yes it is extremely long. I felt that the ending was dragged on a bit. I found myself just rushing through the pages to have it done, and not because I felt compelled to turn the page in relation to the plot. However, the plot for 98% of the book, did keep my heart pounding, my mind spinning, and my fingers aching to turn the pages. A great read, even with the negative of being increasingly long.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This copy has too many typographical errors to comfortably try to read it. There are symbols which make no sense and tons of typos. I don't know what causes this, as I thought the text was scanned in to a computer. The cover and inside page look like they were scanned, but the rest of the text appears to have been terribly transcribed by someone who couldn't type.
book-a-holick More than 1 year ago
Great plot, great characters, but too many pages of glop. Find an abridged version, or listen to it in your car (except it might put you to sleep).
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fascinating story. Marian and Count Fosco may be the most brilliant character ever created. A true page turner.....MUST MUST READ. WOW
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing novel - written over 140 years ago, yet as exciting today as any thriller. The characters are well developed and intelligent. Enjoyable from start to finish.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As others have stated before me, the opening 100 pages can be seen as quite dull, but once you get past it.....No mystery today can compare with the shocking and yet realistic events in this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I first thought that this was going to be a dry book, but don't let the first few pages fool you, this book is full of twists and turns making it quite enjoyable. The characters were believable and that is saying something considering that all of them tell a part of the story! Also rich in historical references complete with endnotes in the text. All in all this was a great read and well worth the money, definately not sorry that I picked this one up, that's for sure!
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terpOK More than 1 year ago
Written in a time where things had to be described in full detail, now it drags due to the descriptions. I found myself skipping large chunks just to get on with it. With all that being said, I would not recommend this book because the story just doesn't warrant it's classic status, in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
An outstanding book I have read this book and I have to say that Wilkie Collins wrote a SPECTACULAR book! For the people out there that love mysteries, this is a classical book that has a lot of twists and turns. I LOVE this book and I'd read it again and again.
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Lovely narrative form
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