The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins (Brief Thoughts on a Reread)

The first time I experienced Wilkie Collins’s masterpiece two years ago (gushing positive thoughts here), it was via an amateur audiobook recording at Librivox and it took me more than a month. I loved the unknown suspense as I tried to anticipate what was coming, I loved the plot, I loved the well developed characters, and the recording was very well done, especially considering it was amateurs.

On this reread, I started it at a similar leisurely pace but then I could not put it down and I read the last three hundred pages in one day (I love leisurely weekends!). I felt compelled to keep turning pages because, let’s face it, The Woman in White (published 1859) has wonderful pacing, a great plot, and characters that one can’t help but love (and love to hate). Because I already had read this book before, I knew what was coming. I did not wonder about the mysteries as I read this time. Rereading it was delightful because I could see even better how Wilkie Collins managed to accomplish his purposes. Although this read didn’t have the element of the unknown, it did have the familiarity of the characters

Because I am a huge fan of rereading, I do want to note here that on this particular reread I came to better appreciate the non-spoiler crowd out there. Because I knew what was coming, the book didn’t have the emotional surprise that it had on my first read. I couldn’t put it down because I did know the twists and surprises that were coming and I wanted to read until That Part time and again, but at the same time, I already knew it. It was no longer a surprise. If there is a book I wish I could read again for the first time (this week’s Top Ten Tuesday question) , The Woman in White would have to be it.

The fall season is perfect for reading The Woman in White because the book has graveyard scenes, scenes on misty London roads, and mysterious secrets to discover.

If you haven’t read it yet, I am very jealous. Enjoy!

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. Like you, I’m indifferent to spoilers, but with books like the Woman in White, it really does make a big difference to the reading experience. The surprises are so integral to the experience! But the fact that it’s enjoyable (but in a different way) even when you know what’s coming shows me that there’s more to it than just a good suspenseful story.

    I actually read this for the second time several years after my first read, so I had forgotten some, but not all, of the twists. So I still got some of the suspenseful experience, although I did remember how the story as a whole turned out.

    1. Teresa » ah, yes, this is just a fun book. I hope I can wait long enough before my next read so that I”ve forgotten a little here and there, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen! I love the details.

  2. I (re)read this a few months ago, and it is a glorious read. Amateur Reader is currently dissecting small parts of this novel over at ‘Wuthering Expectations’ too 🙂

  3. I just read this one last month for the first time and loved it! A lot of people are telling me that his novel The Moonstone is better, so that is now on my TBR list. If it’s better than The Woman in White, it must be spectacular!

  4. This is one of those books I’ve wanted to read for a while (and I own a copy), but the primary reason I’ve avoided it, despite loving Collins, is that ages ago I saw an adaption on TV. So I’ve been afraid that it wouldn’t be as interesting, since I already have an idea of how it goes. (Of course, as time passes, I’m starting to forget the story, so it’s becoming less of an excuse!) Your post and a couple others I’ve seen recently are really encouraging me to pick it up anyway, that there is still plenty to enjoy within the pages.

    1. amanda » oh, sorry to hear that the adaption turned you off from this. I wonder how they could capture the personalities on screen — I hope they get it RIGHT! I love the characters because they’re all for the most part unique.

  5. I just read this and I really enjoyed it! I even reviewed it. Go me! I am looking forward to more Collins as I have only read this one and The Moonstone (last year).

    1. Kailana » Yeay! I read Armadale and No NAme as well. I preferred Armadale over. I also have Poor Miss Finch on my shelf, and there are so many more to discover! Happy reading!

  6. I am reading it for the first time and so far I’m finding it …. boring; but I’m plugging along in anticpation of your promised twists and surprises.

    1. Suzanne » oh no! I suppose having the book group not like the book I love is a definite possibility. It happened with Mrs Dalloway! For me, I loved it from the time I met the woman in white on the road, I think. I hope it picks up for you! Fingers crossed!

  7. SUCH a great book! I read it last January for a readalong, and I absolutely LOVED it. I should have put it on my list today!

  8. I tell this to everyone who mentions this book – I spent the whole book expecting the Woman in White to be a ghost. LOL. Who knows how I got this crazy idea, but I did.

  9. I have been reading a lot of books about crime fiction lately, and all of them talk about this being one of, if not the first full length detective/crime novel. I still haven’t read it, but I certainly will at some point in the next 12 months or so.

    1. Becky (Page Turners) » I believe you may be thinking of The Moonstone, which is definitely a mystery. This one is more of a suspenseful quest to prove the truth…

  10. A ghost is a good guess! I think that’s one reason why Collins gets that scene out of the way so early.

    It’s all part of the tension-and-release strategy. The mysterious title creates tension – what can it mean? – and as soon as that tension dissipates, it is replaced by a new mystery.

  11. I got an excellent hardback copy of this book at a library book sale a few years ago, with those fun watercolor illustrations they used to put in books of fairy tales and such. But I haven’t reread it since the first time — usually I like a reread better than the original time!

    1. Jenny » I don’t know which I enjoyed better …. it was wonderful to revisit these old friends, but it was also good the first time to be surprised!

  12. Well, you make me feel less bad about the fact I haven’t read this (or anything else by Wilkie!)… I picked it up last year, I think, and read about 80 pages or so before picking something else up. It wasn’t because the book wasn’t good, but I was just really busy with school stuff so I couldn’t focus on it at all, and you know how long books intimidate me. I definitely want to read this as well as some other stuff by Collins soon, and it looks like I’ll be in for a real treat! I love when a book is so surprising and fun that you can’t bear to put it down… and it also makes me thankful that my book memory is kind of terrible so that after a few years picking up most books is like reading them for the first time again!

  13. I’ll be reading this one in November with Reading Buddles. Stop by and discuss! I know very little about it (I’m firmly in that non-spoiler crowd) and so am really excited to discover what happens.

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