The Woman in White
Reviewed: February 6, 2007
By: Wilkie Collins / Dramatized by Beverly Cooper
Publisher: BTC Audio Books
3 CDs, 2.5 hours, $29.95
Wilkie Collins was one of the first
big names in what we would now call the "thriller" genre. His novel,
The Woman in White, was serialized in 1859, as many novels were in
that period, and it seems that its installments were as eagerly awaited as
Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories were some decades later.
He produced the book using what is
called the epistolary narrative method, which refers to a single story told
by a variety of voices, often using diaries, letters and other documents to
tell the tale. Mary Shelly had used this method to relate the tale of Frankenstein
some 40 years earlier, and Collins made it so popular in this novel and
The Moonstone that Bram Stoker also copied it to narrate his Dracula.
The first narrator of the story is
a drawing master named Walter Hartright, who meets a mysterious, anxious woman
dressed all in white and helps her to escape from some men who are chasing
her, only to discover that she is an escaped mental patient.
Arriving at his new posting as an art
tutor at Limmeridge House, he is amazed to discover that one of his pupils
is the spitting image of this woman. He falls in love with Laura Fairlie,
and she with him, but he is persuaded by her half-sister, Marian Halcombe,
that their stations in life are too far apart and that he must leave, which
Following his departure, Laura finds
herself locked into a disastrous marriage with Sir Percival Glyde who, it
emerges, wants her only for her money and is scheming, with the aid of his
odious friend, Count Fosco, to acquire control of her fortune.
This narrative is continued by Marian,
by the family lawyer, even by Laura's nervous uncle and guardian, each portion
of the story adding to the mystery and intrigue.
The plot hinges, of course, on the
similarity between Laura and the woman in white, and how Glyde and Fosco use
that to engineer the apparent death of Laura in order give Glyde the money
he wants. I realize this is a spoiler, but anyone who didn't pick up on this
right away would have been a very dim reader or listener. The story works
well even though you know exactly where it has to be going very early on.
This BTC (Between the Covers) production
is a delightful dramatization of the story, condensed, to be sure, but retaining
the mood and suspense of the original. There is an effective cast which really
works to bring the story to life.