Quick Review (read on for full review)
An enjoyable, entertaining tale full of twists and turns. Gothic, atmospheric and melodramatic, it kept my attention from beginning to end. 4 / 5
Summary (from Goodreads)
Bigamy, child abandonment, deception, theft, murder, and insanity all take part of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s novel. Her over-the-top drama was one of the most popular novels of the mid-1800s and provides an interesting portrayal of both class- and gender issues as they intersect within the domestic sphere.
I always find it harder to pick favourite quotes from ebooks and audiobooks than I do from physical books, and so I sought out the list of quotes from Lady Audley’s Secret on Goodreads and picked my favourite, and I think it’s a smashing one…
“Surely a pretty woman never looks prettier than when making tea.”
(From Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon)
This was a very enjoyable read, and, given its age, not at all dry. In fact, it was very readable.
Although the story was very much over-the-top in pretty much every aspect of the story, it made for an unpredictable tale. With so many twists and turns I had no idea what was going to happen next, and that ensured the story remained engaging from beginning to end. The gothic atmosphere of the setting really came through, and the detailed descriptions helped to create a clear image of where the story was taking place and what time of year it was.
Robert was an interesting main character. Depicted as laidback and often idle, with a love of books and pipe-smoking, it’s not until he is faced with a personal loss that we the reader and the other characters that surround him, get see just how clever and determined he can be. Naturally, for heightened dramatic effect, there were a few times I found myself thinking a few of his choices were unwise but that is par for the course for a sensation novel. My favourite character was probably the astute Alicia Audley, stepdaughter of Lady Audley.
Is Lady Audley a sympathetic character? Can her motivations be justified? The character is constructed in such a way as the reader can have very little sympathy with her, even if at one brief point in her story it is possible to feel sorry for her, but I’ll not go into further detail for fear of spoilers. She is in effect the Victorian arch-villainess as whatever a bad woman in Victorian society could be accused of being, she was.
The ending was a little soppy and too perfect my liking, but there is an element of poking fun at itself there too, which helped make it more palatable. The only other downside to the book was its length, and that’s where it a lost a star in my rating of it. In my personal opinion, it felt overly long for the story, yet at the same time I can’t really point to any part of it and say it was unnecessary to move the story forward.
If you don’t like melodrama in your fiction, you may not like this, but if you can see pass it for the fun it is, I think you will enjoy it.
March’s Book for The Very Informal Classic Reads Book Club Challenge 2021 – The Last Of The Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper