This book is categorized as a Gothic novel. Most of my knowledge of the Gothic novel is based on Jane Austen's satirization of the genre in Northanger Abbey. This book tells a great mystery and is filled with memorable characters.
Wilke Collins was a good friend of Charles Dickens and I could see similarities in his characterizations and dialogue. I was also intrigued by the narration of the story. It is told in letter form from several character's points of view. Collins does an excellent job of writing in different voices. Experimentation with narrative voice seems popular in classic novels. While most of our modern
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Collins epistolary style serves a distinct purpose in The Woman in White. The initial narrator, Walter Hartright, intends to tell the of the mysterious Woman in White in order to set it straight. In many ways, Hartright acts as a detective in this story. I enjoyed the development of his character throughout the novel. He at first seems to be a Mama's boy with little worldly experience, but the mystery itself reveals the strength and determination of his character.
The novel features two unforgettable Italian characters. Professor Pesca at first seems earnest and ridiculous and his quaint turns of phrase are expertly recorded, but he later becomes and integral piece of the puzzle. Count Fosca is another larger than life character and I would love to see him well played on screen or stage.
I enjoyed the mystery of the book and was continually surprised by the way Collins put the puzzle together. The language was enjoyable, but it took some effort to get through 772 pages. I couldn't help wondering how a modern editor would change this book!