Once hailed as “great trash” by literary critic Edward Bulwer-Lytton, The Woman in White became a favorite with readers not just in 1860, when it was published, but for more than one hundred years to follow.
The novel opens with a narration by the character Walter Hartright. He is a drawing teacher, hired to instruct Miss Laura Fairlie and her friend, Marian Halcombe. As Hartright’s tale unfolds, we learn that Miss Fairlie is to be married to Sir Percival Glyde, but receives a ominous letter warning her not to go ahead with the marriage.
I wasn’t aware that this novel was one of the earliest mysteries published. It gives one a great appreciation for the methods Collins uses to create suspense. He does this by dividing the novel, not just into chapters, but through the use of different narrators. Each storyteller gives the reader a different perspective on the characters and the events.
Who was the woman in white? Why does Anne Catherick warn Laura Fairlie against marrying Sir Percival Glyde? Is Marian Halcombe able to help her dear friend?
All of these questions and more are answered in the pages of The Woman in White.
4 stars (out of 5)
Published in 1860