Customer Reviews


598 Reviews
5 star:
 (358)
4 star:
 (144)
3 star:
 (68)
2 star:
 (16)
1 star:
 (12)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


269 of 271 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Mystery That Keeps You Guessing
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...
Published on February 11, 2010 by FancyPants

versus
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the Woman in White
Walter Hartright first meets this mysterious woman while walking along a deserted road; she was a solitary, unusual woman who is dressed from head to foot in white garments. He talks with her and then she disappears.
In this way the Woman in White begins. It is a fascinating mystery novel full of twists and turns, mistaken identities, and surprise revelations...
Published on November 8, 2001 by Amazon Customer


‹ Previous | 1 260 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

269 of 271 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic Mystery That Keeps You Guessing, February 11, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
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.

If this review gave you information that was helpful, please feel free to click the YES button below!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


273 of 283 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innocence, Villainy and Heroism, February 3, 2003
By 
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!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


133 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping plot, engaging characters, May 28, 2006
By 
Michael B. Collins (Placentia, NL Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Virtue versus Villainy, September 30, 2006
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.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of the highest standards Mr. Wilkie Collins set, August 13, 2000
"The Woman In White" is either the best mystery by this Author, or some readers like myself would choose "The Moonstone". I read the latter first, and the first introduction often remains a favorite. These are also his most well known works, although as an Author and playwright he produced dozens. Rarely is a book received with such a unity of opinion, the 31 reviewers that precede me gave an average of a perfect 5 stars. And this praise is for a book that is now being published in its third century.
The book is intricate; it has the reader view the same events from many points of view of a variety of characters, in either written or spoken form. From the first encounter with the lady in white, to the final step out of Mr. Collins's maze, into the open space of "seeing" all the bits he has presented you with, the book is uniformly excellent. One commercial review suggested the book improved by being abridged, but they can be dismissed, as that is what they are selling on tape. Mr. Collins was a writer not a recording Artist, and even those who listen to the audio version have done nothing to deserve being given an interpretation of the novel. His writing has survived and flourished while countless means of communication conveyance have come and gone.
Mr. Collins constructs intricate plots, to share them, allow them to develop, and then to unwind the mystery takes time, or perhaps pages. This book and others were issued to the public in stages over several months. Even when they were bound for library use, they were bound in 3 separate bindings. All of this was taken into account when the writing was done, to suggest there can be any modification of the work is to advertise ignorance. To suggest an abridgement is not only possible but also an improvement is imbecilic.
Mr. Wilkie Collins, his friend Mr. Charles Dickens, and their contemporaries wrote books, They were as long as they needed to be, for their Authors or Authoresses were not pondering what the movie rights might bring, or how to adapt a particular character to suit a given actor. The writing they did was uncorrupted. It is true, especially with Mr. Dickens that he read from his work for the public, and did so extensively. But to compare a live reading by the creator of a work, to another mechanical abridged format is absurd.
"The Woman In White" would probably not be published for the first time today. How many books of this length do you find yourself inundated with from today's Authors? Of course there are excellent writers today, a handful can be brilliant in one third the space of this book, but so what? Well one problem is that for Charles Palliser to create one of his works takes years, and the results are magnificent, but like others who will remain in print ad infinitum, his work is long. His work has also been compared to that of Mr. Collins.
In the end Readers decide what is to stay and what is to be forgotten. It is wonderful that while more and more of what is offered presently are ready-made screenplays, or bound thoughts with the depth of a parking lot puddle, we still have these gems handed down to us whose quality has ensured their permanence.
If mystery is what you like, this is the Author who started it. Enjoy.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great mystery!, April 13, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
It's some years since I've read a Victorian novel, and I admit that it took a few chapters for me to re-adapt to the Victorian style of writing and of speaking. Often a little long winded, in typical Victorian fashion, making me re-read a sentence three or four times to determine exactly what the writer is saying, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins soon became not only enjoyable but a book I could barely put down!

I am very glad to say that I stuck with it. Initially I thought this would be a romance so I braced myself for that alone (I am not a big fan of romantic fiction). I admit that I skipped a couple of pages when I was a few chapters in (I can only handle so much drippy fawning over a beloved) but only had to do that once.

The Woman in White is certainly not just a romance, but also a great mystery novel and filled with some very intriguing characters. Marian Halcombe is, of course, my favorite - a strong woman who belittles herself and women far too much, but also Pesca and later the Count - even at the end, I couldn't bring myself to hate Fosco! Indeed the only characters that I disliked were those I believe I was supposed to dislike... the idiotic Fairlie, the smarmy Baronet and a pity-hate relationship with Mrs Catherack. Throughout the whole book, we are made aware that something bad happens... and unlike a traditional mystery where we read to find out whodunnit, in this case we wait with baited breath to ask not only whodunnit, but also what did they do? Cleverly written and highly recommended!

The Woman In White is in the public domain so I picked up this free ebook instead of one of the paid versions, and I was perfectly happy with the Kindle formatting.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Wilkie's Women, December 24, 2004
By 
Jennifer M (DeKalb, IL USA) - See all my reviews
In the 143 years since its publication, Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White (Random House Modern Library Classics, 1860) has never gone out of print. Originally serialized in Charles Dickens' weekly journal All the Year Round, it outsold Dickens himself in London and New York in 1860.

The novel (and Collins himself) is considered the forerunner to the modern mystery genre and the premise is as simple as it is delightful. London artist Walter Hartright is sent to Cumberland to teach drawing to two half-sisters. He falls instantly in love with Laurie Fairlie, the younger of the two, who is betrothed to a man of noble blood. When it becomes obvious that the fair and delicate Laura's new husband has dastardly intentions, Walter and the older, spinster sister, Marian, are set off on a thrilling chase to rescue Laura and solve the riddle of the woman in white.

Part of the ongoing appeal of The Woman in White is certainly its status as a paragon of mid-Victorian literature. England in 1860 was a rural and aristocratic society coping with the rise of industrialization, urbanization, and the effects of a rapidly-growing middle class on the ideals of democracy. Literature of this time focused on realism - the creation of believable behavior, setting, and psychologically credible characters - combined with sensationalism - high drama and volatile passions.

Victorian readers expected a happy ending to a story that provided social commentary on the present condition of England and Collins delivered both. The Woman in White serves up a critique on class relations, insane asylums, foreigners, and Victorian feminism.

The story is told in a series of first-person narratives, each picking up where the other left off and continuing the plot from his or her own point of view. Collins based this style on court trials he witnessed while attending law school. His progressive class consciousness is revealed in giving a narrative voice to servants who help tell the story, while denying a voice to upper-crust characters such as Laura and her husband, Sir Percival Glyde.

Additionally, like much of Victorian literature, Collins addressing the question of what constitutes a gentleman. The rise of the British middle class spawned a debate as to whether money or morals conferred gentlemanly status. The evils of Sir Percival and his Italian mastermind, Count Fosco, compared to the innocent honor of the lowly drawing master place the designation of gentleman with a kindly heart rather than a thick wallet. Though Collins avoid eat-the-rich didacticism - Laura herself is quite wealthy, but not a villain.

The subplot of madness serves to show up the deplorable conditions of the Victorian asylum where it was possible to be falsely restrained by greedy relatives who then obtained all one's property. Several prominent cases like this preceded the publication of The Woman in White. Forced commitment to an asylum is a common theme in Victorian literature, probably reflecting fears over the narrow range of acceptable behavior that was considered normal and sane. The book's continued popularity may speak to a universal fear of losing one's identity, of having the whole world think we're crazy simply for speaking the truth.

Collins' views on foreigners are alluded to in his treatment of two central characters, both foreign-born Italians. Walter's servant, Pesca, is a bumbling fool but a loyal friend. Count Fosco is evil, yet cultured and clever. The apparently negative portrayal of Italians may be partially due to the British fear of Catholics during the Pope's vie for power in the mid-19th century. More likely, they were a product of the British Empire and the Crimean War, which ended shortly before publication. Victorian Brits justified the Empire with a belief that foreigners were irrational, childlike, irreligious, criminal, hypersexual, and dirty. The Italians were specifically targeted because they sided with the Austro-Hungarian Empire during the war. That Collins created Pesca and Fosco to be quirky and engaging characters is probably progressive in the same sense as a modern American writer might create a Middle Eastern Muslim character to be appealing to the reader without becoming a caricature of either good or bad qualities.

The Woman in White is probably best known as an expose' on the lot of the Victorian woman. Feminism in Victorian times is still recognizable today, influenced as it was by liberal Protestant evangelism, enlightenment appeals to reason, and the rise of communitarian socialism as a strong political force. "Ladies' reading societies" were cropping up in response to Susannah Wright urging women to "read yourselves into awareness". John Stuart Mill was being arrested for distributing information on birth control and attacking the traditional family, saying child-rearing should be communal.

Collins himself was known for being unsympathetic to the traditional family. He lived in a polygamous arrangement with two women he never married and once said his writing "dramatizes the domestic horror of marriage" and showed up the vagaries of marital law.

The novel compares four distinct female characters - Laura; her half-sister, Marian; Count Fosco's wife, Eleanor; and Anne Catherick, the titular women in white herself. Marian is arguably the story's richest character. Collins never mocks her and the reader is not left pitying her even though a Victorian spinster carried the stigma of pity. She mirrors Fosco's cleverness and culture, but for good instead of evil. Unexpectedly, at the time of publication, men contacted Collins wanting to know if Marian was based on a real woman because they wished to meet such a woman. It begs the question of whether the ideals in weight, beauty, and temperament to which women strive to please men have ever been what men really wanted in the first place.

In the shadow of Marian, there's Madame Fosco - temptress and shrew turned dutiful wife. Her subservience is wound into Count Fosco's villainy, yet Laura's subservience remains a symbol of virtue (perhaps Collins avoiding didacticism again).

In spite of her sweetness, Laura remains a two-dimensional character. The plot revolves around her, yet she's as lifeless on the pages as one of her own drawings. In the end, we're left pitying Laura's weakness rather than Marian's spinsterhood, which may have been Collins' intention.

But if Laura is the bright side of virtuous Victorian womanhood, Anne Catherick is its dark underbelly. Her truthful tongue and sharp mind mark her as insane. Her ineffectual weakness and lack of male protection are exaggerated into madness where she whispers in and out of the story - the wraith-like woman in white.

As a feminist novel, it's not without flaw. Collins stoops to portraying Marian as ugly and mannish, implying that she can't catch a man because of her indelicacy and her facial hair. (In point of fact, the number of mid-Victorian spinsters rose because of the women outnumbered the men.) We do watch Marian pine for love, yet it's her beautiful, passive half-sister who is rewarded with it. Though, given Collins' views towards marriage, he may have bestowed this as an ironic mixed reward. Rather than being strong or cunning in standing up to Sir Percival, Laura mostly resorts to the tired stereotype of childlike sneakiness. And here the book falls into the common trap, at least for the modern reader, of mistaking Laura's cunning or Marian's wit and spunk for genuine feminist analysis. This is a problem even in modern entertainment where we're supposed to believe the heroine is liberated when, in fact, she's only making cynical and sarcastic one-liners. But overall, Collins effectively shows the futility of both options for women - the lack of means and social stigma of spinsters and the legal and social disappearance of marriage. The modern reader is left to ponder whether this has really changed.

Characters aside, the heightened language of the novel is lovely and begs to be read aloud, despite a criticism of Collins is that his language was too flowery to accurately reflect Victorian English and, because he was paid by the word, some passages become unnecessarily wordy. To the modern taste, the book is simply too long for a suspense novel, weighing in at 645 pages.

The plot structure of the serial narratives diverges from the typical Victorian novel in which it was common for the author to interject with commentary in his or her own voice, addressed to the reader. The narrative format allows all the advantages of the omniscient viewpoint while keeping the immediacy and personal feel of the first person.

Some holes in the plot are distracting. A woman believed dead is able to marry. Chronological errors in dates (the result of the original serial publication) leave events occurring in nonsensical order. Characters appear and disappear with inexplicable suddenness. Some coincidences strain credibility. A case of typhoid fever figures into the story twenty years before typhoid was officially diagnosed (though it had become a matter of public health and medical inquiry in England at the time of publication).

The quality of The Woman in White is clearly overstated today because of its status as a period piece. In its day, it was little more than a trashy novel for mass entertainment - only slightly less degraded than the modern soap opera because of the evident social commentary. The overemphasis placed on The Secret is a cheap gimmick to lure the Victorian reader into purchasing the next installment.

In spite of this, and in addition to the social commentary, The Woman in White has literary value. Collins plants a fabulous story into the genre of the sensation novel. He uses the kind of symbolism meaningful to a Victorian audience - for example, fire was a common symbol for the tensions between stable, conservative, and restricting values versus destructive and liberating passionate emotion and sexuality. Witticisms are planted into the characters' names - Pesca can't swim yet, his name is Italian for "fish"; Fosco means "gloom"; Percival refers to the knight seeking the Holy Grail.

Collins' use of word painting is evocative and typically Victorian - for example, the description of Blackwater Park is both explanatory and creates an aura of evil. The coincidences, epiphanies, and mistaken identities are fun even when they're exaggerated. All in all, The Woman in White is likely to continue entertaining readers for another 140 years to come.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


28 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Woman in White, March 22, 2010
This book is a page turner! I work from home which means that I am extremely self motivated person. I have my work times and my play times. When I started reading this book though that all went out the window. I read it from cover to cover without stopping. I can rationalize and say that I needed the time off from work but that would be a cop out.

This book is that good!

If you are into suspense/mystery types of books then this is the ticket for you!
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed the Woman in White, November 8, 2001
Walter Hartright first meets this mysterious woman while walking along a deserted road; she was a solitary, unusual woman who is dressed from head to foot in white garments. He talks with her and then she disappears.
In this way the Woman in White begins. It is a fascinating mystery novel full of twists and turns, mistaken identities, and surprise revelations.
I loved this book and the investigating that Walter Hartright does, after his first encounter with the woman in white, to uncover her identity.
This book was a bit dated in parts, but overall a strange, eerie mystery tale that is well worth reading. It deserves 3 1/2 stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great novel, and great, great villain, February 24, 2002
THE WOMAN IN WHITE is one of those books that wants to make a deal with you. If you can, as Coleridge put it, temporarily suspend your disbelief about the difficulty of such elements as two women who are virtually identical to one another in appearance, on the astonishing proliferation of sheer coincidence, and the improbability that someone could not prove to others that they are who they say that they are, this book will provide you with some of the most exciting moments in all of literature. Yeah, much of it is absurdly farfetched. But I know of very, very few novels that have left me as breathless as this one. There were several moments that left me entirely unable to put it down.
The novel also contains one of the greatest villains in the history of literature. In fact, I cannot think of a more delightful villain in English literature than the outrageous Count Fosco. There are very, very many reasons to read this novel, but even if all the others were not to exist, this novel would bear reading just to become acquainted with Count Fosco. Brilliant, obese, larger-than-life, sentimental, eloquent, arrogant, conceited, eloquent, and heartless, Count Fosco is grand in the way that a James Bond villain is grand. Interestingly, as I read the novel for the first time, Fosco kept putting me in mind of another great fat villain in literature and movies: Kasper Gutman of THE MALTESE FALCON. Imagine my delight when I learned that there was a 1948 film version of THE WOMAN IN WHITE, and that Sydney Greenstreet, the same person who portrayed Kasper Gutman in THE MALTESE FALCON, played the role of Count Fosco. I'm not sure he possesses the physical grace attributed to Fosco, but he definitely has the eloquence and charisma.
If you haven't read this book, please do yourself a favor and do so. Only . . . make sure you have plenty of time and that you don't have to be interrupted. There are times when you won't want to stop.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 260 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

The Woman in White
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
$1.99
Add to wishlist See buying options
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.