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The Woman in White (Penguin Classics) Hardcover – September 28, 2010

ISBN-13: 978-0141192420 ISBN-10: 0141192429

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Hardcover: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics Hardcover (September 28, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141192429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141192420
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (606 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #275,784 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Josephine Bailey and Simon Prebble turn in stellar performances of Collins's classic, commonly regarded as the world's first mystery novel. Late one night, on the way to his new post, art teacher Walter Hartright encounters a ghostly woman dressed all in white, tending to a grave. The next day, he meets his new pupils, Laura Fairlie and her half-sister, Marian, and discovers that the sisters have mysterious ties to the woman in white. For a story told by a sequence of first-person narrators, Bailey and Prebble provide well-paced, alternating readings: Prebble's Hartright is steady, even-keeled, and sensitive; his Marian is bright and clear and blunt. Bailey's Laura is equally well rendered: kind and young, sad and sweet. The voices both narrators provide the host of other characters—including the hot-tempered Sir Percival Glyde and the devious Count Fosco—are attended with equal imagination and skill. A must-listen for mystery lovers. (Jan.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

Review

"This is an excellent edition of The Woman in White. It has been prepared with great thoroughness by two editors well versed in Collins studies and give the earliest published version of Collins's text. It provides a lengthy introduction covering most of the important issues raised by the novel. The annotations have been carefully researched and the various appendices succeed in furnishing the reader with exactly the right sort of contextual and background matter to give a better understanding of the story." (Andrew Gasson)

"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 the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

269 of 271 people found the following review helpful By FancyPants on February 11, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'd never heard of Wilkie Collins before I got my Kindle. In searching out free classics, I of course found a number of references to this classic mystery. I inferred from the title that the woman in white was a ghost (who knows why!) so fully expected some specter to rise out of the misty moors. Instead, I was surprised to find myself in the grip of a diabolical and tragic tale told by several different and distinct voices. While a tad overlong - why use one word when you can use six? - my thumb rarely left the Next Page button. I had no desire to 'cheat' on Walter, Laura, Marion, Anne, the Baronet and Fosco with another book, and in fact could barely put down my Kindle until I could no longer keep my eyes open in the wee hours of the night. Collins was a genius at keeping the reader guessing, which I did throughout. Just when I thought I had it all figured out, Collins read my thoughts and threw me a curveball. And though the language is very old-fashioned and formal - think 19th century England - I had few troubles figuring out the odd unfamiliar phrase. Of course, it was tough not to chuckle at the quaint and genteel 'evils' that seem so commonplace today, but it didn't take away from my enjoyment of the book. If anything, it added to it. After reading - and thoroughly enjoying - The Woman in White, I can clearly understand why this classic has endured.

A note on Kindle formatting: I have seen reviews of other Kindle freebies that were badly formatted and/or edited, but that was not the case with this book. Not only were there few (if any) typos, the formatting was quite readable. The one addition I would have liked is a linked table of contents. If you find a 99 cent version that boasts such a TOC, I'd recommend buying it instead of downloading it for free as I would have like to have looked back at different characters' accounts after reading them.

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273 of 283 people found the following review helpful By Lance C. Panzer on February 3, 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Laura Fairly is the innocent, the young, sheltered, Victorian maiden who abides by her departed father's wishes. On his deathbed, he bids her to marry Sir Percival Glyde. Enter villainy. The grasping, frightened, short-tempered Sir Percival insists on a speedy wedding. He handily dispatches any obstacles thrown up in his path; he is damned and determined to wed Laura--and her fortune. But Laura has a sister, Marian, a strong-willed, independent, fiercely loyal sister who at first champions the marriage and then recoils once she realizes the true nature of Sir Percival. The man is a monster. And Marian will do anything to protect her sister. Heroism, and then some. There is also another, a drawing master named Walter Hartright, commissioned to teach Laura and Marian the fine art of watercolors. He falls in love with Laura, and she with him--before her marriage to Sir Percival. The drama should be obvious.

But what of the title? Who is the Woman in White? Her chance meeting with Walter Hartright on the road to London provides the catalyst upon which the entire narrative turns. She is at once and both the key and the puzzle. She is a victim. She is a harbinger. She scares Sir Percival out of his wits.

This book offers vivid portrayals of Victorian England, its mannerisms, its wardrobe, its inhibitions, its attitude. This book eerily reflects our own time, our own angst, in the 21st century. Once you read it, you'll know what I mean. Deception has no age.

P.S. Whatever you do, don't turn your back on Count Fosco!
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133 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Michael B. Collins on May 28, 2006
Format: Mass Market Paperback
I read this book in one day, a day where no classes were attended, no phone calls were taken, and no visits made. I cooked and ate my food with it in hand, and sometimes damned my inability to read faster, I was so eager to find out what was going to happen next.

"The Woman in White" is not just one of the most engaging and gripping Victorian novels I have ever read, it is one of the most engaging and gripping novels of all time. Collins creates vivid, memorable characters (ranging from brave intelligent Marian to the surprising and sinister Count Fosco) who are engaged in a plot that twists and turns like nothing else. There are so many unexpected, even shocking incidents, and Collins moves between them with exactingly precise yet graceful and beautiful prose. Not only that, his narrative style, which moves from character to character, allows for fantastic comic interludes which break up the drama (the chapter from the point of view of the hypochondriac uncle is gut-bustingly funny).

A couple of people I know, who are generally not fond of 19th century literature, loved this book. I have never met someone who has not been charmed by it. I strongly urge anyone and everyone to read it.
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59 of 63 people found the following review helpful By Clare Chu on September 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This engaging mystery pits three idealistic young people in the traps of larcenous, black-hearted villians. A mysterious woman-in-white encournters Walter Hartright, a young drawing master on his way to a new commission in the country. From then on, it seems that their fate and lives are tangled together, this woman-in-white, and Walter and his pupils Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie. At first it seemed like a lighthearted curiosity, that Marian searches for in her mother's letters, just a childhood acquaintance. The first few months at Limmeridge, the Fairlie's mansion, Walter Hartright, Marian Halcombe and Laura Fairlie spend a happy companionable season as drawing master and pupils, with not a worry in their heads but the beautiful nature scenes, walks in the gardens and contemplation of the blue sky. That is, until Laura's impending marriage to Sir Percival Glyde draws a gloomy end to their idyllic days. From then on, the pace quickens as the woman-in-white first sends a letter of warning to Laura, and then later, lurks around attempting to deliver a Secret to Laura, only to be foiled by the maneuverings of an elderly corpulent Count who has allied himself with Sir Percival Glyde.

Laura becomes the victim, Walter the absent hero, and it is all up to Marian, the lion-hearted defender of her sister, who stands as protector, investigator, and emotional supporter to Laura, that is until tragic circumstances force their separation. Just when things seem the darkest, a surprising twist grabs the reader for a rousing finale that carries Walter incognito from Central America to London to Blackwater Park to Cumberland to Welmingham to an old church where the "Secret" of Sir Percival Glyde is revealed and wickedness is recompensed.

A guaranteed page-turner that will keep you up way past your bedtime. Everything is explained at the end, except for the reason that Laura's late father wanted her to marry Percival Glyde in the first place.
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