When one of my book clubs identified Wilkie Collins’ nineteenth century classic mystery The Woman in White for discussion, I looked for another way to reread the famous story and found the four hour BBC radio dramatization on Audible. With rich British intonation, the dialogue kept me immersed in the plot, most of which I had forgotten since reading it for a college literature class.
A detective story with Gothic overtones, the story has an other worldly tone as the reader tries to discover the secret of the ghostly woman dressed in white. In her review, Camille Cauti cleverly summarized the plot without revealing too much for readers who want to thrill to its twists – either again or for the first time.
The story begins with an eerie midnight encounter between artist Walter Hartright and a ghostly woman dressed all in white who seems desperate to share a dark secret. The next day Hartright, engaged as a drawing master to the beautiful Laura Fairlie and her half sister, tells his pupils about the strange events of the previous evening. Determined to learn all they can about the mysterious woman in white, the three soon find themselves drawn into a chilling vortex of crime, poison, kidnapping, and international intrigue.
The father of the detective novel and a contemporary of Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins was the first to transform a sensational crime story into a tale with clues the reading audience could follow. When it was first published in 1860, the book was serialized, and according to mystery expert Charles Silet, readers enthusiastically started a Woman-in-White craze “which gave rise to a popular song, a dramatization of the novel, and even prompted women to dress in white.”
I throughly enjoyed listening. The music heightened the suspense, and the characters’ intonation made the complicated plot easy to follow. I’ll look for another book performed by this talented group of British actors.