24. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (1859-60)

It took ages to decide whether to include this or The Moonstone, but I’ve gone for The Woman in White on the grounds that it’s the subtler of the two, without surrendering one whit of the narrative power that makes Wilkie Collins one of my favourite writers. It’s got a fantastically convoluted plot about mental illness, fake identity and thwarted sexuality, and the characters, both goodies and baddies, leap off the page. I’m particularly fond of the sinister Count Fosco, with his pet mice. At his best, Collins rivals his friend Charles Dickens – I’d recommend this, The Moonstone, Armadale and No Name in particular. Even his lesser novels are worth a read – I really enjoyed Poor Miss Finch, which I seem to recall concerns a young woman whose unfortunate lover has a skin disease which turns his face blue, but it doesn’t matter because the the girlfriend goes blind. But The Woman in White really is a masterpiece, one of those Victorian novels that challenges all our stereotypes of 19th-century life.



Filed under My top 100 novels

2 responses to “24. The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins (1859-60)

  1. David Benedict

    A marvel. And v pleased you also mentioned his supremely underrated Armadale. How many other novels have a plot climaxing around poisoned lemonade?

  2. Armadale is almost my favourite of his, although in some ways it’s the least ‘Collinsesque’ and the most ‘Dickensesque’. I’m also v fond of No Name.

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