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Book Review: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

The Woman in White is a story about matters of illegitimacy and seizing the inheritance of property by unlawful ways. These kinds of stories were very around the corner in the Victorian era throughout Europe. Well, the prominent aspect of this novel is the mystery that surrounds the characters, it is made into a gripping read in that era of 1860 (when it was published) by narrating the story through multiple characters.

And at the same time, there is nothing being horror about this book and too many characters were on the verge of spoiling the mood of readers, but the plot and climaxes of this novel are so finely woven and intriguing that forgetting the multiple cast of characters seemed the only option to have it enjoyed thoroughly.

There are many narrators of the events in the book, however the story advances well on the shoulders of Walter Hartright. He gets an opportunity to tutor the drawing lessons to two women. He got this chance through one of his Italian friends. On a midnight stroll amidst the streets of London, he happens to meet a lanky woman attired in white, to whom he helps by arranging a horse-carriage cab. Soon, police questions him about the same woman, saying that the woman in white is a run away from a mental asylum, she is mentally ill.

Later, Walter reaches to his destination of job in Cumberland county: in the Limmeridge cottage which belongs to a wealthy land owner Frederick Fairlie (he is ill). He is to teach Laura Fairlie and Marian Halcombe, they are half-sisters. Walter strongly feels that Laura resembles the woman in white whom he met at midnight. Quite soon, they both fall in love. However, as per the promise given to her father, Laura is engaged to Sir Percival Glyde and both to be married soon. This breaks his heart. A secret letter tells that Laura must not marry Glyde. The letter was from Anne Catherick, the mentally ill lady, the woman in white whom Walter met. Also, Anne Catherick was a friend of both Laura and her deceased mother.

Glyde soon deduces that Anne holds a dark secret about him. The secret is that his parents were never married. He is an illegitimate child. Thus, he cannot inherit the property of Laura upon her death. Strangely, Laura and her family are oblivion to this fact. After the marriage when Glyde and Laura return from Italy to their cottage, Marian begins living with them. Count Fosco from Italy is the new addition to the family, he is the friend of Glyde as well. Over the time Glyde begins mistreating both the women and when he asks Laura to hand over her inheritance to him for clearing some debts, she refuses. As Anne and Laura are look-alike of each other. They conspire to exchange both the women. They do it successfully. Anne dies of an illness and buried as Laura. And Laura is forcibly sent to asylum as an Anne. Walter back to the city, finds the world upside down. However, it is Marian who overheard their planning and later saves Laura from the asylum by bribing the staff.

Walter, Marian and Laura go undercover and busy themselves in proving Glyde wrong and unlawful. They must prove Laura’s identity to reclaim her inheritance. To destroy his traces of illegitimacy, Glyde sets the church, at his native village, on fire to destroy the records but he too dies in the process.

Afterwards, it is disclosed that Anne was an illegitimate child of Laura’s father and Walter forces Count Fosco to give a written confession which helps in restoring the identity of Laura.

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