Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White hinges on identity, forgery and rank suspicion, suspicion that gets the better of us and makes us rash instead of rational.
The Woman in White · Wilkie Collins · 1860
Penguin, 2009 · 672 pages, hardcover
The Woman in White is both a sensationalist thriller and a social commentary. Collins takes his shots at the marriage laws and rules of inheritance of 1850s England, and he provides a creeping horror alongside it, the same kind of horror where you realize how very trapped you are and how powerless you are to get out. A close marriage, the words invalid and invalidate.
That pernicious horror doesn’t confine itself to money, nor even to love, but asserts itself as an erasure of recognition, and this erasure necessitates a different kind of forgery – that of reclamation and the forging of a new life.