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Man and Wife

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  746 Ratings  ·  66 Reviews
Published in 1870, Man and Wife is a melodramatic story by Wilkie Collins. About two childhood friends, Blanche and Anne, who accidentally meet after many years' separation amongst a rush of guests at a summer house party. Caught up in the consequences of the unequal marriage laws of Victorian Britain, the ladies share their troubled pasts.
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Published July 13th 2009 by ReadHowYouWant (first published 1870)
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Sep 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, library
They don't write 'em like this anymore.

What the endorsers of 'the good old days' tend to forget, and the view explored through the character of Sir Patrick, is that the past has always looked better than the present. So as a modern reader of fiction from the 1800's, it was interesting to see that although this period of time might seem idealized to us now, it wasn't so for the people living then. Of course, this seemed common sense once I started thinking about it, but I just needed it pointed o
Aug 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery-thriller
When Dickens was producing his scathing attack on the English chancery system (Bleak House), or his expose of the boarding school system (Nicholas Nickleby), his good friend Wilkie Collins produced this morality tale about the marriage laws in some parts (Scotland, Ireland) of the British empire in the 19th century. And, he doesn't let the institution of marriage off easily, showing how, for a woman, a marriage was a form of legalized bondage which permitted the husband to essentially steal all ...more
Dec 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Yet another Wilkie Collins years ahead of its time. Seriously: why does everyone think Charles Dickens is the greatest English Victorian novelist?? After The Law and the Lady's feminist heroine, we now have a novel which deals with the terrible situation many 19th century women found themselves in when they realised they'd married a complete pig. Social commentary wrapped up in a gripping storyline, with more than its fair share of humour considering the emotional subject mattter...
Sarah Asp
Aug 30, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my favorite Wilkie Collins but nontheless a great classic book dealing with themes unique to the era. You can always rely on Collins to keep you guessing until the end. Suspense fiction got started with this author and as a contemporary/rival of Dickens you can expect a good read.
Aug 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilkie Collins is known as one of the fathers of the mystery with The Moonstone and The Woman in White, both of which I would recommend. In this work, Collins also shows himself as a master of suspense while engaging in some pointed social commentary as well.

The suspense (and much of the commentary) is built around the Scottish marriage laws of the time, which recognized "irregular marriages" in which men and women, who wittingly or not, represented themselves as married were indeed married unde
Jul 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book hinges on the marriage laws of Scotland in the 1800s wherein a "private" marriage could be effected almost unknowingly. A bounder has gotten a woman in trouble and agrees to marry her. When he has a chance at a wealthy marriage he frames her and one of his best friends to make it look like they were married, leaving him free and having no worries regarding breach of promise.
Jan 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Hell of gripping, as they say. Why isn't this better-known? Would it be blasphemous to say that it's better than The Woman in White and The Moonstone? 'Cause it is. Not as good as No Name, though.
I enjoyed the story - Wilkie always throws in a nice little twist and a bit of irony for spice. Too long by far, though. I would have enjoyed it much more if it had been at least 100 pages shorter. It's a light read but a heavy-weight.
Ricardo Moedano
Mar 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mentors
Daunted though I was by the sheer bulk of this volume (over 600 pages of small, crammed print!), and not sure whether I would be able to grasp the legal aspects of the story, hence perhaps impeded from appreciating Wilkie's effort at contesting the Scotch marriage system of the 19th century, due to there being no Penguin or Oxford edition for Kindle with explanatory notes, yet hankering after some yarn where mistery and drama converge with a bit of comedy, I finally gave this massive novel a sho ...more
Lora Grigorova
Man and Wife:

I am glad I am not a woman in the Victorian society! I am glad I have the right to choose whom I marry, to own property, to get my salary, and to tell my husband to f*ck himself if he is a drunkard who beats me. Yes, I still get the inferior judgements by men. I admit the only two things I know about my car are how to drive it and how to put gas. I don’t want to learn anything else. I don’t want to be a man in women shoes and I still believe
My Inner Shelf
Ma précédente lecture m’avait donné envie de lire un Wilkie, Cryssilda m’a aidé à choisir dans ma PAL en me conseillant Mari et femme. Encore une fois Wilkie me réjouit ! Il pousse même le génie à rendre lisible une intrigue d’une niaiserie affligeante.
L’histoire se résume à un vrai faux mariage écossais, et il est question de savoir si oui ou non Chose est marié avec Bidule, pour que Machin puisse épouser Trucmuche. Dans le fond, on tient l’intrigue de base, sauf que c’est Wilkie Collins qui s’
May 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wilkie Collins was not only a detective novelist, he was a writer who took up the cause of social injustices, but presented them in the form, somewhat, of a suspense novel. In this novel, we are presented with the damsel in distress - because of antiquated and unbalanced marriage laws currently in effect regarding women, she finds herself "accidentlly" married to the friend of her betrothed. Collins builds the suspense, exponding on the laws of the land and how she came to be in such a position; ...more
Margot Ayer
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilkie Collins is one of my favorite mid-nineteenth century writers and deserves to be known for more than just The Woman in White and The Moonstone. Like his contemporary Dickens, his books were written in serial form so they could be rambling and long, but Collin's novels are full of drama, passion, melodrama -- and realistic characters (both women and men).

It's a shame they haven't been dramatized more -- if you love the tv shows Revenge and Ringer -- you'll love this. The marriage laws of I
Bill Cavanagh
I tend to agree with Pamela on this one. I could have easily thrown in the towel at one stage. It began well enough but soon got bogged down in 'wordiness'. However the first part of the book was excellent and when the plot thickened towards the end it really became a page turner. No surprises though although I was disappointed that poor old Hester ended up in an asylum. (What happened to her confession by the way?) Despite its shortcomings the book did give a fascinating insight into the marria ...more
May 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anti-jocks, and those who think marriage is a scam
Shelves: freebox
Well, that was a bit of a slog. Wilkie Collins manages to combine melodrama (wives in mortal danger from their villainous husbands, ambiguous marriages) with obsessive bees in his bonnet, to wit: the lax Scottish laws on what constitutes a marriage, and the degenerative effects physical activity had on Victorian health and morals. Now I hate exercise as much as the next man (more than most, actually) but I have a hard time believing that Victorians were so delicately constructed that they could ...more
Forgive me, Wilkie, for I have sinned. I almost lost my faith in you, and somewhere around the middle of the book, wanted to throw in the towel and give you a two-star rating. However, that's mostly my crazy personal preferences about romantic intrigues (more on that later).

Man and Wife is Collins' dual condemnation of the state of the marriage institution in Victorian England and the problem (as he saw it) of too much emphasis on physical training and athleticism. The theme of legitimacy is som
As is often the case, I dithered over the rating of this one. Three seems low, four high. It's an easy read (by nineteenth-century fiction standards, anyway) and despite being over 600 pages long rarely seems slow or tedious, even when it goes off on tangents. Several of the characters are fascinating, in a heightened sort of way; none are plausible, really, as people, but many are well-etched. Sir Patrick Lundie, the satirically-inclined, clever, noble elderly lawyer who ends up really being th ...more
Apr 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again Wilkie Collins took over a whole day and kept me awake half the night, riveted by a melodramatic but never far fetched tale. Less scathing in his condemnation of social ills than Dickens ( I am thinking particularly of the "dead, my lords and gentleman" speech in Bleak House, after the death of Jo the crossing sweeper,) Collins nonetheless uses the novel as a vehicle to shine a light on the laws concerning marriage in Scotland in the 1800's, when even two lawyers could not agree what ...more
Tony Talbot
Feb 08, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: wilkie-collins
Another Wilkie Collins, and this one began with the same back story of characters who don't really have an impact on the rest of the book (See my review of The Moonstone). Although it takes a while for the main story to start, once it does, it really kicks into high gear fast and stays there.

The title, Man and Wife, covers the strands of the book perfectly: Man and Wife, and the awful stifling Victorian laws that affect them.

Or more accurately, the awful laws that stifle a wife. If a husband tr
Jan 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1114-collins
I LOVE this book. Wilkie Collins is, of course, the inventor of the modern detective novel (The Moonstone), but he was also a writer of short stories and serial fiction in the nineteenth century (he was good friends with Charles Dickens). This book was intended as a commentary on the complex marriage laws that applied in Scotland, Ireland, and England in the nineteenth century, which, as the book details, could get people into some real legal and moral trouble. It also provides an impressive and ...more
Dec 11, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-to-read
As a lover of Wilkie Collins mysteries, I was a little nervous to pick something up by him that was billed as a social commentary. However, I was blown away by this story. It is the perfect read for cold winter days, hot chocolate, and a warm room where one can gasp and cry shame at the characters in this thrilling tale.

This is the story of two friends whose lives are almost ruined by the ridiculous marriage laws of Scotland. Apparently at one time it was enough to declare yourself married afte
After the success of his four great novels of the 1860s (The Woman in White, Armadale, No Name, The Moonstone), Wilkie Collins wrote Man and Wife. Here, Collins melded the sensation novel form with a critique of Victorian society: specifically, its inequitable marriage laws and the rights and legal status of women. Unfortunately, the characters are a little too cardboard to make either side of the meld work as well as they might have. The heroine, Anne, who is promised marriage by one man only t ...more
Stacey Starley
Jul 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this book intriguing with it's seemingly contemporary commentary on the moral character of professional athletes despite being written over 150 years ago. I was extremely grateful for the strides of women's rights since the circumstances women found themselves in the 1850's (when this was written). Though I don't always agree with the feminist goals and aspirations of today's feminist party; I am deeply appreciative to the freedom's I have recognized in my marriage through authors such a ...more
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel is not one of his better known works of fiction.

One of the main themes appears to be that if you focus on the development of one aspect of your character to the exclusion of your other aspects, then it could lead to an entire imbalance in your life and total welbeing. The principle is embodied in Geoffrey Delamyn who is frequently referred to as a scoundrel. He wants his own way all the time & has neglected to develop his mental & moral faculties.

Another theme is the marriage l
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By the author of The Woman in White and Moonstone, this is an indictment of the old fashioned marriage laws in Victorian England, written as a cross between his "thriller" style (Woman in White) and Trollope's "exposing hypocrisy" style. You would almost think it was written by Trollope, it is so full of extremes held up for ridicule. But it is a compelling and beautiful story of what is most noble in the human soul. Parts are in the middle sad, but the end is very suspenseful and not predictabl ...more
Jun 08, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2016
This book is BANANAS in the best Wilkie Collins way. Within the first twenty pages, I was like "oh my GOD what is happening!"
Of his other works, I'd compare it most strongly to "No Name;" if you didn't like the social-issues soapbox he gets on in that one, you won't care for "Man and Wife."
I, however, happen to love listening to Victorians rant about the messed up laws of their day. I don't know why, it's just something about a guy getting really hot under the collar about Scotch/Irish marriage
Victoria Evangelina Belyavskaya


I love reading about family lives, about relationships and about what people are going through. I found all of these in a rather slow and naive (it's a Victorian times book, after all!) yet engaging and sweet "Man and Wife" volume. It's full of author's morals, it's written in a very simple language and yet there is something very profound and classy in between it's pages. Watch out whom you trust to; keep your formal affairs in order and stay noble - you'll be rewarded: thes
Dec 10, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: re-reading
It is said that Wilkie Collins was at the height of his powers in the 1860s, when he wrote the books generally acknowledged to be his four great novels:

The Woman in White (1860)
No Name (1862)
Armadale (1866)
The Moonstone (1868)

I wouldn’t argue with that. They were the first four of his books that I found and read; and they are the books that I knew that I loved dearly, even when, years after my first readings, many of the details were lost to me.

I’ve re-read two of them, and I was wondering wh
Dec 10, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wilkie Collins is more didactic in this novel than in the others I've read. It's still a page-turning Victorian thriller, but Collins wants to expose the injustice of the marriage laws of his day (which is sort of touching: he is very sensitive to the plight of women), but he's also full of venom about the young Britons of his day, whom he sees as rough and crude and too interested in sports. I could do without the diatribes. But I'm still having fun working my way through Collins' novels. The l ...more
Interesting look at Scottish marriage laws of the time - actually illuminated bits from other victorian and earlier novels that i didn't previously understand. The author's obsession with physical exercise and its detrimenal effects on the civil side of human nature is a bit distracting, as it seems ridiculous now. what was refreshing was that the 'fallen woman' actually gets to live happily ever after (though with a much older man), rather than getting a solitary life of repentance or death in ...more
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A close friend of Charles Dickens' from their meeting in March 1851 until Dickens' death in June 1870, William "Wilkie" Collins was one of the best known, best loved, and, for a time, best paid of Victorian fiction writers. But after his death, his reputation declined as Dickens' bloomed. Now, Collins is being given more critical and popular attention than he has received for fifty years. Most of ...more
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