It concerns a young art teacher named Walter Hartright, who encounters a mysterious and distressed woman dressed entirely in white, in London. She asks him if he lives in London, Walter replies he is leaving for Limmeridge, Cumberland to work as a drawing master to two sisters living at Limmeridge House. She reveals that she also once lived at Limmeridge and yearns to see the village and Limmeridge House again. Walter is greatly surprised by the coincidence. however before Walter can question the woman further, she becomes agitated and disappears. Later he learns that the woman in white has escaped from a lunatic asylum, Leaving Walter unsettled and perplexed,
Soon afterward, he travels to Limmeridge House in Cumberland, having been hired as a drawing master on the recommendation of his friend, Pesca, an Italian language master. The Limmeridge household comprises Frederick Fairlie, and Walter’s students: Miss Halcombe’s younger and very beautiful half-sister, Laura Fairlie, Mr. Fairlie’s niece, and Marian Halcombe, an intelligent and sensible young woman, devoted half-sister and elder of the two women. Walter discovers that Laura bears a strong resemblance to the woman in white; who he learns is Anne Catherick: a mentally disabled child who formerly lived near Limmeridge, and was devoted to Laura’s mother, who first dressed her in white
Walter is Intrigued by this and Laura’s engaging personality, and finds himself falling in love with Laura. However Laura is engaged to be married to Sir Percival Glyde, Baronet. Then Laura receives an anonymous letter warning her against marrying Glyde. Walter suspects Anne sent the letter and learns that Sir Percival, had her committed to a mental asylum. The family lawyer also starts having misgivings over the financial terms of the marriage settlement, which will give the entirety of Laura’s fortune to Glyde if she dies without leaving an heir.
Nevertheless Sir Percival and Laura Marry and return to his house, Blackwater Park in Hampshire; accompanied by Glyde’s friend, Count Fosco (who is married to Laura’s aunt). Marian also moves to Blackwater meanwhile Walter decides to move away. Glyde starts taking an unhealthy interest in Laura’s inheritance, and they begin to suspect he is not the gentleman they thought him to be. Sure enough he attempts to coerce Laura into giving him £20,000. Meanwhile Anne, also travels to Blackwater Park and contacts Laura concerning Glyde and Fosco. Miriam later discovers Fosco and Glyde plotting a devious scheme concerning Laura and Anne. Then Walter returns and investigates and learns that Glyde is hiding a big secret and finds himself embroiled in a convoluted web involving family secrets, dodgy dealing, financial troubles, Mistaken identity, betrayal and death….