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This was my first exposure to Wilkie Collins, after someone recommended "The Woman in White" as a good followup to going through most of Dickens on audiobook. I can now thoroughly second the recommendation. Marion Halcombe and Count Fosco are two of the most memorable characters I've encountered in English fiction, and Collins's mastery of plotting and suspense leaves most contemporary authors in the dust (I've just given up on Brad Meltzer's chaotic "The Inner Circle", but that's another story).
The use of dual male and female narrators takes some getting used to but in the end works well. The rationale is that the entire novel is constructed as a sequence of "narratives" by various characters of both sexes. Simon Prebble is uniformly excellent; Josephine Bailey starts out a bit woodenly but soon picks up in intensity, and does a fine job voicing range of characters from different classes and regions. Count Fosco's accent wavers more than a little between (and even within) narrators, but he's such an outlandish piece of work that this is hardly a distraction.
49 of 50 people found this review helpful
Walter Hartright, a young art teacher, is startled when he is overtaken by a young woman dressed entirely in white while walking on the road from Hampstead to London. Visibly distressed, the young woman begs him to show her the way to London, and he offers to accompany her there. The young woman accepts his offer on the condition that he allow her to come and go as she pleases. Once he's dropped her off in London, two men in hot pursuit claim that the girl has escaped a mental asylum and must be returned there at once, but Walter does nothing to help them in their search. The next day he arrives at Limmeridge House, where he has gained a position as a drawing master. There he meets his young pupils, half sisters Marian and Laura. In no time at all, her befriends Marian—no great beauty is she, but quick, smart and amusing—and falls desperately in love with the heavenly loveliness that is Laura. But the encounter with the woman in white will carry many consequences.
I took absolute delight in discovering all the plot twists of this great classic mystery, so will disclose no more of the story nor of how it is told, but will say that it offers a wonderfully evil conspiracy and several highly memorable characters, not least of which the strange and compelling villain Count Fosco, who stole every scene in which he appeared, in my view. Also, the sublimely selfish Frederick Fairlie is one of the most memorable invalids I have ever encountered in a work of fiction. I must say that this version, narrated by Simon Prebble and Josephine Bailey, greatly increased my enjoyment of the tale, with wonderfully rendered characters. Now that I've listened to it and that there are no more secrets for me to discover, I still look forward to listening to it again for a fun romp with highly colourful characters and plenty of Gothic frissons.
44 of 45 people found this review helpful
This is just excellent in every way. The story completely captured my imagination and held me enthralled from beginning to end. Wilkie Collins exceeded all expectations that I had of him. Simon Prebble is as always a fantastic narrator that I could listen to forever. Josephine Bailey admirably held her own against him. One of the best novels to cross my path in a long long time. Thank you very much audible