Genre: Mystery, Romance, Sensation
Topics: Inheritance, Dark Secrets
Review: I listened to this book via the Librivox recording, and it was amazing. I don't know how so many people worked together to make this book come to life, but I love that they put so much effort into it. Each character has a different narrator on the audiobook, and each narrator creates a completely unique voice that really brings that character to life.
I don't even know how to describe what this book is about. There's a drawing teacher, Walter Hartwright, who meets a woman dressed all in white one night on the road. He helps her get where she needs to go and then continues on his own way. But he soon realizes that his life is tied by fate to that of the woman in white, who knows about all sorts of secrets and wicked deeds and horrible pasts that will impact the lives of those closest to him. And it's up to Walter and his completely awesome sidekick Marian, a brave and loyal woman who has the misfortune of being quite ugly, to save the day so that Walter can live happily ever after with the beautiful, rich princess of his choosing, Marian's half-sister, Laura.
Honestly, in reading this book, I can't help but think that Collins really wanted to make Marian the heroine but somehow settled for Laura. It's pretty clear that Collins has zero interest in Laura. She's good, she's kind, she's pretty, she can play the piano, but that's about it. Collins gives practically everyone in the story at least one chapter to tell their side of the story, but he gives Laura nothing. In contrast, Marian the Awesome gets a significant portion of the story dedicated to her narrative. I will go to my grave (or at least, will go to the point at which I become quite foggy about this book's particulars) thinking that Hartwright was in love with one sister in his heart but just didn't realize it because he was so blinded by physical beauty. But lucky for him, he gets to spend his days with both sisters, so life is quite grand for him.
My only other exposure to Collins had been the book Armadale, and I admit that I wasn't a fan of that one at all. I really disliked Lydia Gwilt and she was the narrator for the majority of the book. Here, I got to see Collins' skill with POV - he is excellent at making each character unique - and was also quite wrapped up in a complicated story with many twists and turns.
This is one of those books that, for me, was so helped by the audiobook. I feel like it would have taken me forever to pick up a book that was almost 700 pages of Victorian overreaction and fainting and virtuous women, but in audio form, it was completely doable. The Librivox team behind this edition is really, really good. If you enjoy sensation novels or mystery novels or novels about unconventional heroines, then I highly recommend this one to you. It's good stuff!
I listened to this free recording of the book.