The Woman in White The Woman in White discussion


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message 1: by Libbygarrett (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:28PM) (new) - added it

Libbygarrett This was the first detective novel(1910) ever written - takes place in London and the narrative is written so well, but is dense. Norah Ephron(Sorry about My Neck) wrote that it was her favorite book, which is why i got it. I am 2/3rds of the way thru.


Laura Birks This book had me guessing all the way through! I've just recently finished it after starting it on the advice of a friend. I will admit that there's a lot to get through and it does feel particularly dense - but the ending is well worth it, especially when you see how it all pans out :D


Dave Wood Yes have to agree with you I really enjoyed the Women in White which was a surprise as I don;t normally enjoy 'classic' fiction. on the recommendation of a fried I've now got 'Armadale' another Collins book on my to-read list


Jediraven I actually read this because I am a Supernatural fan and was interested in the myth; that's how the book caught my eye. There are twists in this novel that actually made my jaw drop while reading! It is an excellent mystery/suspense novel. I also like how the author puts more points of view into telling the story than character you even think might have an impact on the outcome.


Rene I'm not sure if this is the first detective novel ever, but I certainly find this one of the best books I ever read. It is well written, with the changing viewpoints, and the ending (and the storyline too) is good. Simply a very good read.


Mundanejane I don't think Woman in White is the first Detective novel--but it IS one of the first with a strong female protagonist and a wonderful example of Gothic fiction. If you enjoyed Woman in White, try Sarah Waters' Fingersmith.


Caroline The Moonstone, also by Collins, is considered by some to be the first detective novel, though there is no consensus on this. If you liked Woman in White, you should read The Moonstone. Very enjoyable!


Rene Yes, that seems a good next read by Collins. I will put it om my "to read" list


✿ ♥  Heather ♥ ✿ I've only just finished Woman in White, highly recommended by a friend. I'd said "I don't like historical books" she said "you'll love this one though".

So, I gave it a go. Was very very hard to get into but when I started to understand the old language I was intrigued to keep reading.

Overall I'm glad I read it but I won't read something like that again in a hurry


Dinah I really liked this book alot. The story kept me interested and guessing what would happen next.


Katherine Wilson I've read The Moonstone and Woman in White, both awesome classics to read but I'd favor The Moonstone as top pick! I've placed Armadale in my to read box as I'm enjoying Wilkie Collins tremendously! All three of these Classics are part of the Sensation Novels. I'm thinking I'd like to make all the Sensation Novels a goal of mine to read. :)


message 12: by Malcolm (new) - added it

Malcolm Esquire It's an excellent read as is his Moonstone and The Dead Secret.


Joley This is one of my all-time favorites. A thoroughly enjoyable read.


Tessa Harris This was certainly a ground-breaking novel in its day. It was first published in 1859 and Mr Gladstone put off a theatre party to finish reading it. It certainly was all the rage. Dances, bonnets and even a hairbrush was named after it. It still stands the test of time.


message 15: by Ana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ana This is such a well-written and excellent novel with some incredible 'set pieces' that are unforgettable. Another favorite: Lady Audley's Secret.


message 16: by Tim (new) - added it

Tim Rucinski Loved this book much more than Moonstone. And Armadale, although enjoyable, seemed to take forever to get to an end that I saw coming way down the road.


Viktoriya It felt really slow to me. Didn't like it. After absolutelly loving Moonstone and reading it at least 3 times, I was really excited to read Woman in White. Big disappointment. (To be honest, I did read it on my honeymoon, and as you can imagine, was somewhat distracted at the time) This one will go into a "read again later" pile. Hopefully, my feelings towards it will change.


Helen Stevens Actually, it was published in 1860. If it had been 1910, then all the Sherlock Holmes novels would have come before it, along with Collins's own "The Moonstone". To be honest, The Woman in White is really more of a mystery than a detective story...mostly cos, you know, there's no actual detective...! :)


Karen Helen wrote: "To be honest, The Woman in White is..."

I rather think of Walter Hartright as a detective, he went to considerable trouble to dig up the truth about Sir Percival and Count Fosco. If not for him, Laura would still be considered dead by everyone.


message 20: by Leah (new) - rated it 4 stars

Leah Vare I felt this book was dated. It was very well written but I didn't find it "mysterious" at all. It was a disappointment.


Marwa this book has got my full attention all the way to its end. how it is structured is amazing to trace all the clues...the ending is really awesome !!


message 22: by Lora (new) - rated it 3 stars

Lora Since the trend for me today is to respond to very old posts, I thought I'd share my 2 cents on The Woman in White:
I enjoyed it a great deal, but sometimes, through about the second third, I almost gave up. There was a certain amount of wandering story that got on my nerves. But I'm glad I stuck it out, because this book ended really well and sent me off to read more Collins.


message 23: by Feliks (last edited Oct 28, 2018 12:50PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Feliks First detective *story* (not novel) is often recognized as 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' by Edgar Allen Poe, (1841).

'The Mystery of Marie Rogêt' (1842) and 'The Purloined Letter' (1844) feature the same detective ('C. Auguste Dupin'). The real-life exploits of Eugène François Vidocq published in an autobiography at the time, may have been the influence on Poe in the first place.

Technically, there's another candidate story from even earlier in the 1820s; there's Sarah Burney's 'The Hermitage' (1839) and there's even a supposed detection tale from China, (late 1600s) --but these need not concern us overmuch. These are not novels. Nor is a serialized work such as 'Les Mystères de Paris' (1842) by the famous French exile, Eugene Sue. Though the innovative Sue influenced later do-gooder characters such as 'Zorro', 'Batman', & 'The Shadow'--its not really detection.

Also in France, Honoré de Balzac's 'Vautrin' appears briefly (1834) and Alexander Dumas père created Monsieur Jackal (1854–59).

Émile Gaboriau's 'Monsieur LeCoq' (1868) also has claim to title.

But as far as the English detective novel is concerned: since Charles Dickens' 'Bleak House' (1853) is also recognized as a detective novel [not just a dramatic novel], this would make it a top candidate for the honor of being 'first detective novel' ever. Remember, we're talking about a novel-length work; not 'a story'.

In 'Bleak House' Dickens introduces one of the first detectives in English Literature: 'Inspector Bucket'. Dickens based Bucket on real life detective Charles F. Field, a member of London's new police force. Dickens wrote several stories featuring Field (sometimes under the name of Wield) in his weekly journal Household Words, including 'On Duty with Inspector Field' (1851). [credit: David Perdue]

Nonetheless, 'The Woman in White' (1859) and 'The Moonstone' (1868) are certainly, two more landmarks in the novel of detection. Some purists claim though, that the first English detective must not be an amateur nor even a police detective, and thereby discount Dickens and Collins, both.

There's another muddle surrounding the identity of this obscure author/authoress: Emma Murdoch Van Deventer, who published 'Shadowed by Three' in 1879. If this is truly a female author, it makes her very early in the genre, indeed (whereas Mary Elizabeth Braddon's 'Lady Audley's Secret' (1862) really does not fit). However, Braddon's 'The Trail of the Serpent' (1861) is claimed by some as first English-language detective novel.

Someone else has already mentioned Emile Gaboriau and Paul Feval (French) who published in 1862 and 1866. Gaboriau's sleuth is 'Monsieur Lecoq'. Very good. Brian Freemantle suggests that Paul Feval's 'Jean Diable', (1862) is the first detective novel. But that's still not an English novel.

In England, Wilkie Collins really opened up the floodgates. Soon after his publications, what we see is Anna Katharine Green's 'The Leavenworth Case'(1878); and Louis Joseph Vance's 'The Lone Wolf' in 1879.

There's a still raging debate about the publication of 'The Notting Hill Mystery' (1862–63) written by an anonymous author using the pseudonym 'Charles Felix'. The author's true identity was never formally revealed but several critics suggest it was Charles Warren Adams (1833–1903). The novel was revolutionary in its techniques and style.

Things begin to pick up in the 1880s: John R. Coryell's 'Nick Carter' first appeared in a dime novel entitled 'The Old Detective's Pupil' in 1886.

And Sir Arthur Conan Doyle followed with 'A Study in Scarlet' (1887). (We all know where that led).

The year 1887 also saw the first emergence of tales of "international intrigue": first, 'Expiation' by E. Phillips Oppenheim who worked in the British diplomatic corp. Another such semi-spy, semi-author figure was William LeQueux, who began his career with 'Guilty Bonds' (1891). LeQueux fomented the 'invasion fiction' trend; meanwhile, what was also emerging was the 'gentleman thief' type-of-story such as E. W. Hornung's 'Raffles', in 1899.

Shortly after the turn of the century, another famous/influential tale of international espionage: 'The Riddle of the Sands' (1903), by Erskine Childers. In 1908, GK Chesterton's, 'The Man Who Was Thursday', cemented the genre. Sax Rohmer's 'Fu Manchu' arrived in 1910-1912-- progenitor of the modern action thriller--as well an early model of James Bond-style romps. There was also the unusual career of Clarence H. New; prolific serial author, His 'Freelancers in Diplomacy' appeared in 1910.

Many posit that John Buchan's 'The Power House' (1910) lays claim to be the first modern spy story, but then what of James Fenimore Cooper's 'The Spy', 1823? Or, 'The Prisoner of Zenda' by Anthony Hope, in 1894?

Other significant mysteries of the 'gaslight' era:
Maurice Leblanc's 'Arsene Lupin' (another gentleman-thief) in 1905; Gaston Leroux' 'The Mystery of the Yellow Room' (1907); and E.C. Bentley's 'Trent's Last Case' (1913).

The influence of Conan Doyle was profound and generated several imitators. The Baroness Orczy (of 'Scarlet Pimpernel' fame) created 'The Old Man In the Corner' --an armchair detective--in 1909 and 'Lady Molly of Scotland Yard' in 1910 (very early female sleuth!).

Another: 'Professor Augustus S. F. X. Van Dusen' (aka, 'The Thinking Machine') was conceived by Jacques Futrelle. Serialized first in magazines (like Holmes) and then appearing in 'The Chase of the Golden Plate' a novel, in 1906.

1907 saw the appearance of R. Austin Freeman's 'Dr. Thorndyke' (the first forensic scientist) in 'The Red Thumb Mark' (also establishing the 'inverted crime story' in which the crime is told first).

In 1910, Arthur B. Reeves' 'Professor Craig Kennedy' arises (a Sherlock Holmes-type character who relies on psychology and chemistry to solve cases). 'Craig Kennedy' later inspired 'Doc Savage, Man of Bronze'.

Another Holmes-like creation: 'Ashton-Kirk, Investigator', in an eponymous work in 1910; by a Philadelphia crime reporter, John T. McIntyre.

A.E.W. Mason, (author of the famous Brit adventure yarn, 'The Four Feathers') also dabbled in detective fiction in 1910--starting off a five-novel series with 'At the Villa Rose' featuring a French detective, Inspector Hanaud.

A real treat in France around the time: multi-episodic crime movies written and directed by Louis Feuillade: 'Fantômas' (1913, story by Marcel Allain), 'les vampires' (1915-16), and 'Judex' (1914-1917). 'Judex' is an early progenitor of 'The Batman' & 'The Shadow'. These are still available in public domain.

Back to novels: H. C. McNeile came out with 'Bull-Dog Drummond' in 1920; Agatha Christie showed up with 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles' in 1922; and Dorothy Sayers emerged with detective Lord Peter Wimsey in 'Who's Body?' (1923). 'Gentleman-detectives' galore.

H. C. McNeile's 'Bulldog Drummond' however, is also a gentleman- *adventurer* (and likely the first one to offer his services for hire via the newspaper). He begins in 1920.

Fun Fact #1: Irish author Freeman Wills Crofts gives us the finest early example of the police-procedural in 1920 with, 'The Cask'.

Fun Fact #2: 1924 a major milestone in action/adventure storytelling: 'The Most Dangerous Game' by Richard Connell.

Fun fact #3: 'The House Without a Key' (1925) by Earl Derr Biggers introduces Charlie Chan. The next major Asian sleuth (John P. Marquand's 'Mr. Moto') ten years later.

Meanwhile, at this stage (the 1920s), all the English authors are copying each other heavily. August Derleth (a weird Wisconsin occultist) created a 70-title pastiche of Sherlock Holmes in 1926, named 'Solar Pons'.

'Locked room mysteries' make their appearance at this point with A.A. Milne's famous 'The Red House Mystery' (1922). John Dickson Carr would capitalize on this with a long list of such titles in the 1930s. Carr excelled in this format.

But Anthony Berkeley comes along before that, with 'The Layton Court Mystery' (1925). Berkeley also penned a classic one-off tale (much like Milne did, above). That book was, 'The Poisoned Chocolates Case' (1929).

A significant work of international intrigue, to further the growth of thriller/adventure novels: Alexander Wilson's 'The Mystery of Tunnel 51', (1928).

But back to mysteries:

S.S. Van Dine provided readers with wildly popular, snobbish serial detective Philo Vance in 'The Benson Murder Case' in 1926. Margery Allingham came out with 'The White Cottage Mystery' (1927).

Leslie Charteris introduces 'The Saint' in 'Meet the Tiger' (1928). Jospehine Tey made her debut in 1929 with 'The Man in the Queue' and Ngaio Marsh, with 'A Man Lay Dead', (1934) was also on her way. Mary Harriet Thynne's "Dr. Constantine' series began in 1928.

Christie, Marsh, Sayers, Tey, and Allingham were the reining 'queens of crime' in the 20s and 30s and really, the spine supporting the 'Golden Age of Detective Fiction'. There was an 'American Christie': Mignon Good Eberhart who began with 'Patient in Room 18', 1929.

But 'gentlemen-detectives' would not easily fade away easily. Two more notable mentions: Irish writer Cecil Day-Lewis emerged in 1935 with his 'Nigel Strangeways' character and in 1931 in France, 'Jules Maigret' by Georges Simenon --a series lasting to 1972. Michael Innes--an Irish writer--started another detective in 1936 surpassing even this long run--namely, 'Sir John Appleby'.

Across the pond in America, more were waiting-their-turn: 'The Thin Man', 'Ellery Queen', 'The Falcon', 'Leonidas Witherall', 'Roger Sheringham', and 'Michael Shayne'. There are scads of other authors circa this timeperiod. Dolores B. Olsen Hitchens, for one. Melville Davisson Post for another. Joseph Smith Fletcher, one more.

And the type of mystery known as the 'Had I But Known' style was initiated by Mary Roberts Rinehart (as well as the phrase, 'the butler did it'. Rinehart started in 1906 with 'The Man in Lower Ten'; then, 'The Circular Staircase' (1908); and 'The Bat'(1920). 'The Bat' in this last-mentioned story, was a super-villain which later inspired 'Batman'. In any case, Rinehart as a female mystery author clearly preceded Agatha Christie et al by approximately fourteen years.

The rise of pulp detective novels was taking over soon, of course.
'Black Mask'--the magazine begun by HL Mencken and George Jean Nathan--had already been circulating since 1920--though not initially with any particular emphasis on the 'naturalistic' detectives which was soon to emerge. Carroll John Daly is generally credited with the introduction of the first hard-boiled detective character within its pages--'Race Williams' made his debut in a 1922 story called, 'The False Burton Combs'. This story preceded one by Dashiell Hammett by a few months, merely.

'Hard-boiled' detectives in pulp form, supplanted weak-water dime-novel characters like 'Frank Merriwell of Yale'; 'The Rover Boys'; etc.

And one more thing to consider is the format known as 'story papers'. These were the dominant form of publishing between 1850 and 1900; adventure magazines for boys; very popular in England. There were serialized detectives in these publications, such as 'The Old Sleuth' and 'Sexton Smith'. Smith was a two-fisted knock-off of Sherlock Holmes with massive success and longevity.

And we haven't even touched on 'occult detectives' who begin in 1855...


Feliks Leah wrote: "I felt this book was dated."

Lol, what? bwaha aha aha


Hallie Pursel I just read the book becuase while I had been reading the infernal devices series it metioned it (and I love classics)


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

It's great book that keeps you guessing.


Brenda Clough Notice also how each 'writer' has his or her own clear voice. You never confuse Marian's section with Walter's or Mr. Fairlee's. (And boy, what a waste of oxygen mr. Fairlee is. Collins is great at inventing thoroughly original villains.)


message 28: by Feliks (last edited Apr 04, 2013 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Feliks Indeed. Count Fosco is one of the all-time superb, fiendish villains.

'Woman in White' was a mesmerizing read, with lots of positive qualities to recommend it--nevertheless I vote 'Moonstone' (so far) as my favorite from Wilkie Collins. One of my most pleaureable reading experiences ever.

'Woman in White' while gripping --engrossing--takes the #2 slot overall. I valued it highly as an experience. But yet, it still did not have the quality of construction found in a true detective or mystery story, it seemed to me at the time. I was not disappointed in it; just slightly surprised at the path Collins chose to take, in his telling.

[SPOILERS BELOW]


'Woman' winds up being more a story of 'domestic intrigue', at the end of it all. However, at different stages during the story it seems to waver between being several things at once--in alternating fashion. Part detective, part mystery, part suspense, even (mildly) part espionage. At each stage, you have to wait until the next plot development to 'make out' what kind of story it is next progressing to.

For most of its length I looked for a supernatural aspect to reckon into the story. I refer to the sightings of the lady. If it had been correctly established that she was dead--but reaching out from the other world to carry out her private purpose--then I would have been ready to label it a hugely fun, eerie, ghost story intertwined with some detective elements.

But this admixture never appeared in the strength I hoped. Those 'lake sightings' --in the middle of the narrative--were handled so superbly that one could not complain either way, of course. They were spooky enough to be the crowning invention of a good ghost story or a good mystery--to either, it would have added grand atmospheric and plot value, both.

Later, at the end of the story, which turned out a wholly different way [since the lady was not deceased], and her sightings (though eerie) were nevertheless firmly of an earthly tint--I then thought perhaps that there would be some 'twist' or 'backwards cast' in retrospect, towards the events in the middle of the story which would then make me (the reader) re-question whether the episode had in fact, been supernatural after all. I was looking for some incontrovertible clue which would suggest the lady's mission had taken her temporarily back over from the land of the dead into the land of the living, so that information delivered by her to the hands of the three investigators resolved the case--despite the hold of the grave. That would have been fantastic in its way; but it also did not transpire.

Instead, the end of the story de-volved into a more mundane (although very satisfying) resolution based on the old melodramatic standby, the 'case of mistaken identity' and the lady herself, participates in the redressing of the 'great wrong done'. But the return from South America, the handling of Fosco, and the handling of Glyde--all very deftly managed.

Compare however, to the full-blown detective/mystery which is 'Moonstone'--different, not lesser in any way; but perhaps the structure of 'Moonstone' is just more sharply clarified and articulated with no perplexity as to what kind of story was being told.


Brenda Clough I was particularly pleased with the Real Facts about the Secret, which I will not spoil for people here. The resolution of all that was very fine.


message 30: by Feliks (last edited Oct 09, 2013 02:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Feliks Update!

Turns out that some critics label this German novella, the very first detective story, and its date (1819-1820) would put all others to shame.

Das Fräulein von Scuderi by ETAH Hoffman.

Yowza! Th'ufferin' Th'uccotath'!

Still, its not *quite* a novel..so my earlier comments remain unscathed. The first full detective novel comes thirty years later.

p.s. credit goes to Goodreads member, 'Holly'
https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/4...
...for this fascinatin' factoid!


Malcolm Massiah Libbygarrett wrote: "This was the first detective novel(1910) ever written - takes place in London and the narrative is written so well, but is dense. Norah Ephron(Sorry about My Neck) wrote that it was her favorite b..."

Libby the novel was written in 1859/60 I think. It has the elements of a detective story but alas it is not a detective novel. That accolade goes to perhaps The Moonstone or Bleak House, I forget which came first.


message 32: by Malcolm (last edited Nov 18, 2013 04:29PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Malcolm Massiah Although I loved the Woman in White, I found it rather irksome. It should've been subtitled the Art of Shaking Hands.

I had to treat the number of times the characters shook hands as a joke or else I would've thrown the book aside never to pick up again.

My favourite character was Philip Fairlie, my least favourite character was the plucky Walter, who I warmed to slightly towards the end.

The novel is brilliant, possibly the Da Vinci Code of its day in terms of sales and popularity.

It's a bloody good intriguing romp and amusing. But for my money The Moonstone is a far superior piece of writing. I couldn't stop laughing at the sheer audacity of the author and some of the characters he created.


Malcolm Massiah Dave wrote: "Yes have to agree with you I really enjoyed the Women in White which was a surprise as I don;t normally enjoy 'classic' fiction. on the recommendation of a fried I've now got 'Armadale' another Col..."

You should read The Dead Secret and The Moonstone. Armadale is confusing, notable only for the character of Oziah Midwinter (a black central character) and the scheming Lydia Gwilt.

Two central characters share the same name so be prepared to be confused even if one of them is white and the other black.


Malcolm Massiah Alberto wrote: "I love this book, the best sensation novel ever written, one of my favorite books. But please, note it is written in 1859, not in 1910. Also, although it is a mystery I wouldn't say it's a detectiv..."

I think Collins' The Moonstone (or Dickens viz Bleak House)is regarded as the first ENGLISH detective novel. Most British academics tend to ignore European stuff when contemplating and considering the issue.


Malcolm Massiah Brenda wrote: "Notice also how each 'writer' has his or her own clear voice. You never confuse Marian's section with Walter's or Mr. Fairlee's. (And boy, what a waste of oxygen mr. Fairlee is. Collins is great a..."

Philip Fairlie may be a waste of oxygen as you put it but he is an hilarious characters. I was very disappointed there was so little of him.


Brenda Clough Did you see the dramatization that MYSTERY did about ten or twelve years ago? It was excellent, and very well cast. (I am tell the stage version, which was a flop, was less true to the book.)


Karen Brenda wrote: "Did you see the dramatization that MYSTERY did about ten or twelve years ago? It was excellent, and very well cast. "

The 1997 version with Tara Fitzgerald and Justine Waddell as the sisters? No, I haven't seen it but I would like to, if I could ever find it anywhere.
The only version I have seen is the gosh awful 1948 movie, which Warner Bros. totally butchered. :(


Brenda Clough Yes, that must be it. As I recall it was very true to the original work. Gosh, that was heart-stopping -- I still recall palpitating with suspense. It was a serial (as was the original novel) and geez louise, Collins was total master of the cliffhanger. Maybe it's on Netflix?


Linda Dobinson ✿ ♥ Heather ♥ ✿ wrote: "I've only just finished Woman in White, highly recommended by a friend. I'd said "I don't like historical books" she said "you'll love this one though".

So, I gave it a go. Was very very hard to..."


Heather The Woman in White is not a historical novel. Historical novels are novels set in the past not in the time they are written. The Woman in White is set in the time it was written. If I wrote a novel and set it in Victorian times that would be a historical novel.


Linda Dobinson Karen wrote: "Brenda wrote: "Did you see the dramatization that MYSTERY did about ten or twelve years ago? It was excellent, and very well cast. "

The 1997 version with Tara Fitzgerald and Justine Waddell as th..."


I saw it and although it was well cast it was pretty rubbish - did not stick to the book. I was well disappointed as W in W is one of my top 5 fave novels.


Linda Dobinson Katherine wrote: "I've read The Moonstone and Woman in White, both awesome classics to read but I'd favor The Moonstone as top pick! I've placed Armadale in my to read box as I'm enjoying Wilkie Collins tremendousl..."

Don't leave out No Name Collins' other sensation novel of the 1860's it is brill. Plus he wrote quite a few other books - all good.


Brenda Clough No, the 1997 version was horrible. There was one several years earlier which was very true to the novel, and is sadly harder to find. I have to go and see if it can be downloaded from Netflix.


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