Thursday, July 2, 2009

The Woman in White

The Woman in White is a Victorian mystery that is considered to be one of the best mysteries ever written. Written in 1859, it takes the form of an early detective novel with an amateur sleuth. The plot (man marries woman and schemes to get her money), albeit predictable by today's standards, is plausible, entertaining and, at times, slightly suspenseful. I attribute this slightness to the Victorian language itself. I'm not a fan of that style of speaking and found myself frustrated at times and thinking just get on with it all ready, stop dragging things out. The story is told from the viewpoints of several characters – much like a legal deposition where each character relates what he/she knows about certain events.

The characters were interesting and memorable; however, I was disappointed in the characterization/treatment of women – weak and inferior. Was this an accurate portrayal for the times? I don't know. I have read other Victorian novels and didn't come away with the same feeling. Because of his portrayal of women, Mr. Collins didn't do justice to Marion Halcombe, one of the more memorable characters in the novel. A greater role would have been appreciated more by today's society but, in 1859, who knows. Creating a lead woman character who 'out thinks' a man may have been taboo. The other memorable character was Count Fosco, the mastermind behind everything evil in the world. I am being a bit facetious; however, the character was so full of himself that I couldn't help but inflate his imaginary ego a little more. His character was fully developed – I didn't like him and found him frustrating – once again this could be attributed to the Victorian language.

Overall, I did like the novel; however, the above issues prevent me from giving it more than three stars. I recommend to those who enjoy Victorian literature and those who would like to read one of the first mystery novels. This is a long book and not a quick read – you will be in it for the long haul – which you will enjoy.


  1. When I read "Jane Eyre" for the first time earlier this year, I had much the same reaction! The language can take some getting used to -- and they certainly have a florid way of talking! And I guess books that are the "first" of a type are not always the "best" of the type. Good review.

  2. I love reading older books. I find it fascinating on how much they can relate to even today. Good review!

  3. I have a hard time with certain styles of writing, as well.

    Good review here! :)