The Woman in White – The Penguin English Library (Paperback) Wilkie Collins
In one moment, every drop of blood in my body was brought to a stop … There, as if it had that moment sprung out of the earth … stood the figure of a solitary Woman, dressed from head to foot in white.
The Woman in White famously opens with Walter Hartright’s eerie encounter on a moonlit London road. Engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie, Walter is drawn into the sinister intrigues of Sir Percival Glyde and his ‘charming’ friend Count Fosco, who has a taste for white mice, vanilla bonbons and poison.
Pursuing questions of identity and insanity along the paths and corridors of English country houses and the madhouse, The Woman in White is a gripping story of desire, ruthless ambition and chilling suspense. The first and most influential novel of the Victorian sensationlist genre it combines Gothic horror with psychological realism.
Often cited as the book that launched Victorian sensationalist fiction, The Woman in White began as an anonymously written instalment in Charles Dickens’ weekly magazine All Year Round and quickly became one of the most talked-about stories of its day. Full of passion, intrigue, hauntings, gothic mystery and shocking scandal, it divided critics but captured the public imagination and today – more than 150 years after it first appeared in print – it continues to delight, shock and enthral in equal measure. As the critic Jon Michael Varese wrote of the book in the Guardian, ‘The apparitions that Collins conjures are the ghosts that ensured not just his success but his longevity. They are what have kept readers going back for more.’