I haven't quite finished Wilkie Collins' brilliant 19th century novel, "The Woman In White," but I had to go ahead and start my review to say that I am thrilled with it. I picked it up from the shelf because it was in the mystery section of my local bookstore, and I took it home because Collins had me on the first page.
Having its origination as a 19th century serial novel, "The Woman In White" is written in first person; in fact, it is actually a modified epistolary form from the perspective of several of the characters. This approach is engaging and revealing but feels a little clunky at times. From the perspective of a 21st century American schooled in the taut 20th century prose of Strunk & White, the story is sometimes needlessly convoluted and its sentence structures occasionally obtuse.
However, Collins' mastery of narrative is phenomenal--there is just the right amount of tension and release throughout the story to propel the reader through the 600-plus pages. Additionally, certain passages in the novel are amongst the most well-crafted writing I have ever encountered; his description of character is multi-faceted and detailed, giving his readers living people to engage with on the page. I pause from time to time in my forward-movement through the pages and take a few minutes to review a passage about a character or situation that I've just read because the prose is so amazingly well-written; I have to read it over and over again.
I plan to return with additional comments after finishing this superb novel, but I must say that, while I long to find what the outcome of the mystery will be, I emphatically do not want it to end!