A clipping from The Guardian from 2005:
Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White is the ultimate page-turner. I must have read it four or five times, and the strangest thing about it is that every time it induces the same hunger in me to get to the end and unravel its mystery. I’ve often wondered why it is that on each rereading I seem to have forgotten much of its byzantine detective plot of illegitimacy and switched identities, and am ready to be drawn afresh into its labyrinth. I suspect that it’s partly because the novel forces you, even against your will, to read it at a single sitting with such speed that many of the narrative details go no further than your short-term memory. (Lucasta Miller)
And I thought it was just me. I have always worried over my ability to be able to read and enjoy a novel, and at the end of it to try and fail to recall the details of the plot. Now when someone asks me to expand on the intricate details of Lydia’s crimes in Armadale I needn’t feel embarrassed about the questions I fail to answer.
But though it is one of the earliest and best mystery stories in the canon, The Woman in White isn’t just about plot. What does stick even after a single reading, and gets enhanced and modified with each successive exposure, is its use of image, character, narrative voice and theme. The arresting scene in which a woman dressed all in white appears out of the darkness on a lonely road is unforgettable
There has always been an insatiable desire for page turning cheap fiction. Collins may be just a Victorian Dan Brown, but there is more to his work, there is a literary skill woven into the thrilling narrative, and that could be the reason these novels remain in print today, where hundreds of others have fallen by the wayside.
Meanwhile back in the present – it’s Bonfire Night and it’s raining. Some traditions rarely change.