Walter Hartright, a young art teacher, meets a mysterious and distressed woman dressed in white. He helps her on her way, but later learns that she has escaped from an asylum. Next day, he travels to Limmeridge House in Cumberland, having been hired as a drawing master on the recommendation of his friend, Pesca, an Italian language master. The Limmeridge household comprises the invalid Frederick Fairlie, and Walter's students: Laura Fairlie, Mr Fairlie's niece, and Marian Halcombe, her devoted half-sister. Walter realises that Laura bears an astonishing resemblance to the woman in white, who is known to the household and whose name is Anne Catherick. The mentally disabled Anne had lived near Limmeridge as a child and was devoted to Laura's mother, who first dressed her in white.
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The Woman in White
I love a book of this length and thoroughly enjoyed it and so pleased it ended well!
Review of a woman in white
This is a very good book not judged on today but on the standards that applied at the time.
It is sometimes hard going and the author (Wilkie Collins) uses paragraphs when sentences will do. The detail can be off putting but like a lot of these 19th century books, you should persevere.
There are a lot of interesting characters not least Count Fosco who is likeable in a rather eccentric roguish way. Sir Percival Glyde is his friend and they are the villains of the piece. Both of these characters have a hidden agenda and are more complex than the typical Victorian caricature.
Why the leading female, Laura Fairlie, marries him (Sir Percival) even though she despises him is unclear if looked at from our perspective. Having been promised to him by her late father, rather a weak character it seems, she feels she must go through with it.
Yes, she loves Walter Hartright, the main male character but feels forced to reject him. This could be seen as a weakness of the plot but attitudes in Victorian England were completely different and perhaps, therefore, this was not out of the ordinary.
Walter then takes it upon himself to go abroad which appears strange but he had no reason to know what will happen to Laura next and clearly wanted to start afresh.
The other main character is Marion, Laura’s half sister, a strong intelligent woman and could be seen as a possible forerunner of the suffragettes. It is to Collin’s credit that he creates such a character, a strong and independent woman, rather unusual for the time. She is not, however, a feminist which did not exist in those times. Probably the real heroine of the plot.
Then there is Frederick Fairlie, Laura and Marion’s uncle, a very obnoxious and pompous hypochondriac and a rather silly man. He does, however, add humour to the plot and is well believable.
The woman in white herself, Ann Catherick, appears on and off in the novel as a rather ghostly and troubled character on the run from an asylum.
The plot builds up well into a fascinating story of misdemeanours and hidden skeletons from the past. Like all good books, it appears that all is lost only for things to work out in the end.
A good and enjoyable read which meanders along until it reaches a happy ending with many twists and turns and surprises on the way.
Nothing particularly philosophical here or even a moral story as such but Collins has a feel for understanding the inferior role that women had in Victorian society and their helplessness in a marriage which was not of their choice. My belief is that he clearly attempts to highlight this problem and to show that women have personalities in their own right.
The book is written from the point of view of the different characters unusual even today but it makes it more interesting and brings out the depth of the characters very well.
Woman in white
First read this book at school. Now coming up to my eighties just reread it still a brilliant read