Another Wilkie Collins, and this one began with the same back story of characters who don't really have an impact on the rest of the book (See my review of The Moonstone). Although it takes a while for the main story to start, once it does, it really kicks into high gear fast and stays there.The title, Man and Wife, covers the strands of the book perfectly: Man and Wife, and the awful stifling Victorian laws that affect them. Or more accurately, the awful laws that stifle a wife. If a husband treats his wife - publicly as least - with respect, she has no ability to leave him; even if she does, all he has to do is turn up at the place she's living and she has no choice but to leave with him. If she refuses to let him in the house, the law will break down the door for him so he can enter. If he abuses her, she can have him locked up in jail...for a month...then he's out again. And if he's out, and is polite in public to her...Also, a woman has no earning ability that is hers. Any money she earns becomes her husbands, and she has no say in the matter. By cages like that do the women in this story find themselves trapped again and again to men who hate them and men who reject them.One of the main plots of the story is the casual marriage rules in Scotland in Victorian times that meant a woman and a man who appear in public in front of two witnesses and call themselves man and wife...are married. Simple - and in this case, as devastaing - as that. From this the main stem of the book sprouts branches and delves into an elaborate and twisting tree of marriages, betrothals and betrayals, domestic abuses behind a sheen of publicly respectable men and wives.