Friday, September 21, 2012

Retro Friday Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

Retro Friday is a meme hosted by Angie of Angieville and "focuses on reviewing books from the past. This can be an old favorite, an under-the-radar book you think deserves more attention, something woefully out of print, etc."
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Publisher: Various (AudioGO for my audio version)
Publication date: Originally serialized from 1859-1860
Length: 24 hours, 41 min
Source: Audiobook from Library
For: Fun!

When Walter Hartwright sees a woman all in white alone late one night, he is understandably surprised. Little does he suspect that she will play an important role in his new life as drawing master for two young ladies, Laura and Marian. Woven through all of their lives is this mysterious woman, a figure who may just be the key to saving Laura from her unfortunate marriage with Sir Percival Glyde.

Things I Liked:
I am once again reminded why classic books are considered, well, classic.  I'm rather ashamed that it's taken me so long to read a Wilkie Collins book!  This was fantastic; it was complex and surprising and had remarkably few of those boring side stories and descriptions of countryside that seem to plague classics.  I love how carefully the tension builds and especially how much you feel afraid for the main characters without knowing exactly why.  That feeling builds at just the right pace and we are sufficiently unprepared for the twists and turns it takes (at least I was).  I think Count Fosco is one of the most interesting characters I've ever read; a villain who is complex, not 100% evil, well developed, and just so subtle you almost doubt his villiany.  A great story with interesting characters and a crazy plot (seriously, so good).  Ian Holm is the narrator, and while not the best at varying the voices, did a great job of expressing the emotions each character was feeling.  I truly felt like he had a grasp on each person, even if sometimes the pitch or tone of voice didn't seem like it (sometimes the women were just annoying).  Still, I was entranced.  Such a fabulous book!

Things I Didn't Like:
I would normally say it was too long, but I honestly just really enjoyed listening to this audiobook.  I really didn't want it to end.  I'm definitely going to listen to more classics on audio, provided there is a good narrator.

It felt pretty Dickens-like in its complicated story

s-factor: !
a few mild ones here and there

mrg-factor: none
some implied stuff, but never discussed

v-factor: ->
not violence, necessarily, but there's definitely some intense stuff

Overall rating:*****

Suggestions for other Wilkie Collins (or similar authors) I should read?  Any great classic audiobooks?

If you buy through my Amazon linkage, I will get a very small percentage


  1. Sounds like a must-read! I don't read enough classics, which is sad because I usually enjoy them. This sounds like a good Halloween book. Also, just read your Unspoken review and am glad to hear it wasn't perfect. All I've been hearing about it is raving and that always makes me nervous because I don't like to go into a book with too high of expectations. Anyway, hopefully I'm making sense. :D

    1. It is a very creepy book, perfect for Halloween! Yeah, I liked Unspoken a lot, but didn't think it was the best ever.

  2. I'm happy to be hearing good things about this one! I am hoping to start it at the beginning of October.

    1. Ooh, hope you enjoy it - it will make a fabulous October read.

  3. I've never read Wilkie Collins either, have been dying to listen to this one, but I'm intimidated by the length, glad to hear it went well for you!

    1. I was a bit intimidated by its length too, but it went by pretty quickly and I kept wanting it to be a bit longer in the end :)

  4. Why have I never heard of these?? They sound great!

    1. Definitely you should give this one a try, it's a fabulous book.

  5. We were just discussing this book at book club last night. I should probably read it at some point but the length worries me. :(

    1. It is pretty long. But it never really felt long to me. It kept my attention pretty much throughout the whole thing.

  6. I love this book. I was surprised by how totally readable it was; also, Collins is so darn sexist that it adds a whole new layer of humor.

    The only other Collins book that I've read is The Moonstone. I enjoyed it as well, though I think The Woman in White was a bit better.

    1. Ha! I'm so oblivious that I didn't notice Collins being super sexist. How unfortunate. I am going to have to try The Moonstone sometime, because this one was so good.

  7. I read this one a couple years back and enjoyed it although I did find it slow at times. I think that eventually I will reread it because it was such a long book and I'm sure I missed a few things. Maybe I'll have to try the audiobook since you enjoyed it so much :)


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