Weathering critical scorn, Lady Audley's Secret quickly established Mary Elizabeth Braddon as the leading light of Victorian 'sensation' fiction, sharing the honour only with Wilkie Collins.
Addictive, cunningly plotted and certainly sensational, Lady Audley's Secret draws on contemporary theories of insanity to probe mid-Victorian anxieties about the rapid rise of consumer culture.
What is the mystery surrounding the charming heroine?
Lady Audley's secret is investigated by Robert Audley, aristocrat turned detective, in a novel that has lost none of its power to disturb and entertain.
- Format: Paperback
- Pages: 512 pages
- Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
- Publication Date: 30/04/1998
- Category: Literary studies: c 1800 to c 1900
- ISBN: 9780140435849
Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.
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Review by AlexTheHunn
This book is an amusing mystery / detective story. Braddon keeps the reader guessing who-done-it in this nineteenth century tale of greed and madness. It's a lot of fun and well worth the time to read.
Review by keristars
I really liked this novel! It's an example of sensationalism in Victorian literature, and it's a fun, quick read, unlike certain bricks-masquerading-as-books that Charles Dickens or George Eliot are known to have written. (I am a bit biased, I suppose.)There is a lot that could be said with regards to literary criticism or historical context for <i>Lady Audley's Secret</i>, but I don't think that knowledge is necessary to enjoy this novel. Like other sensationalist novels, this one has a mystery and a terrible crime and it's based loosely (or not so loosely) on actual headlines from the time. In this case, Robert Audley takes it upon himself to uncover his aunt Lady Audley's secrets - why did his friend George Talboys disappear after being with her (did she kill him?), who was she before she was Lucy Audley (was she really Helen Talboys?), and why, if she was Helen Talboys, did she fake her death and abandon her and George Talboys's infant son?
Review by AdonisGuilfoyle
There are three ways to read this book: directly, as a Victorian sensation novel; historically, as a contemporary account of the language, society and literary tastes of another era; or as a feminist diatribe about the physical and legal oppression of women in the 1850s. I began in the first camp, yet could definitely appreciate the social injustice of the time Mary Braddon was writing about by the end, and thoroughly enjoyed the story!Lady Audley is not a feminist heroine, or even a worthy villainess/black widow figure - compared to Beatrice Lacey in Philippa Gregory's 'Wideacre', or Du Maurier's Rebecca, she's barely even wicked! She is just selfish and cold-hearted, driven not by passion but by greed, and perpetrating the same wrongs that she accuses others of - and even when she raises herself above the poverty she was born into, she is not content. I didn't feel one whit of sympathy for her, or admire her audacity and cunning - perhaps because she was but poorly drawn as an antagonist. I'm sure Braddon was being bitterly ironic in painting the 'poor little woman' as a 'childlike' caricature of the Victorian 'angel in the house', replete with golden hair, wide blue eyes and a laugh like the 'peal of silvery bells', who blames her misdeeds on a fit of womanly hysteria, but not even the contrast of a sociopathic alter ego was enough to hold my interest in her pretty ways and constant rambling soliloquies. I love 'femmes fatales' and bewitching heroines, but Lady Audley is neither.Robert Audley, however, is a gem! He's a delightful if rather slapdash detective, raised out of his normal torpor as a barrister by name and professional flaneur by the disappearance of his friend, George Talboys. Granted, he does become a little wearisome during his monomaniacal quest for justice, and his habit of confiding in Lady Audley as a device to move the action along can be infuriating, but the matching of wits is engrossing to follow, despite the anticlimax of the outcome (I was hoping for a switch of identities, or an escape from punishment, but no - justice is served, and happy endings all round!) Read as it is, 'Lady Audley's Secret' is an entertaining light read (especially when divested of all introductions and footnotes in the attractive and highly readable Pocket Penguin Classics edition), full of the usual tropes of Victorian novels - gothic settings, melodrama, repressed sensuality, madness and death. Robert Audley is a dashing hero, and his cousin Alicia is an ascerbic yet attractive Marian Halcombe foil for his moody obsessions and nice-but-dim personality. There are some lush descriptions of Audley Court and Robert's bachelor pad in the city (stocked with French novels, canaries and stray dogs - make of that what you will), as well as an atmospheric application of storms, dark nights and fire. The social context of the novel is worth considering - wives were basically the possessions of their husbands, with limited respectable alternatives for living independently - but reading the story and not the subtext is much more fun!
Review by wisewoman
Review by joririchardson
For some reason, I wasn't expecting much out of this classic novel, and it sat on my shelves for more than just a few months. However, once I started reading, I couldn't put "Lady Audley's Secret" down.The plot line is this: A beautiful young woman named Lucy has recently married Sir Michael Audley, a rich older man, and comes to stay at the prestigious Audley Court manor. Sir Audley's daughter is jealous of her newfound rival, but everyone else seems fascinated and delighted at the new little mistress.But when Sir Michael's nephew Robert and his friend George Talboys come to stay, strange things begin to happen. Talboys mysteriously disappears one day, and no one seems to have the slightest idea where he has gone.Robert sets out to find him, but the trail that the mystery leads him down becomes increasingly darker and shocking.Written in 1862, this book was much more lightly written and easy to get through than other contemporary books of that time, such as the works of the Bronte sisters. I noticed this at once, and I found it very entertaining. The characters of this book are quite well drawn, and it is, not surprisingly, Lady Audley who is most memorable. She is a perfectly beautiful and charming young woman who would have been, in her time, the ideal lady. That is, from an outsider's point of view. As the story progresses, we see that behind her mask of sweetness, she hides a much darker, terrible nature. Braddon gives us clues of this early on, which are not all that difficult to catch. For example, the unfinished painting of her, in which she is depicted as a "beautiful fiend." It seems that the artist who painted Lucy saw beyond her pretty smile and further into her true nature. It is also mentioned that Lucy does not like happy tunes, but rather "somber and melancholy" music. Despite being extremely interesting, however, I left the story still wanting to see a bit more into Lady Audley's darker side. She is not the main character, but rather the villain, so we do not spend so many scenes with her as the title may suggest. We are able to assume her maliciousness and twisted thoughts, because we learn of her actions. However, I never really 'felt' these crimes enough.I loved the character of Robert Audley, who is a smooth and normally quite lazy barrister. He seemed quite arrogant and irritating in the beginning, and I couldn't help but picture him as Malfoy (from the Harry Potter books - their characters follow me no matter what I read!). However, by the end of the book, he had become a very likable character. If a book must have a main character, it would certainly be Robert, and most of the book follows his actions as he searches for his friend. His relentless loyalty to George Talboys was admirable, and the manner in which he deals with his discoveries is thoughful to his uncle while still seeking justice. The pacing of this book was well done and made it easy to continue reading. Short chapters were normally left off in cliff-hangers, since the story was first published in serial form. I loved the chilly Gothic elements to this book, described just as Gothic passages should be - dark, foreboding, mysterious, with just a touch of strange beauty. The descriptions of the Audley manor were my favorite, and I really got a sense of the setting. What better house for this mystery than a very old, oddly built mansion with secret passageways?If you are one of those people who loves trying to figure out the outcome of a mystery before the detective does - look no further. You will definitely be able to quickly realize the culprit here, as the author makes it quite obvious. However, for this particular story, it worked, and never affected my interest in the plot.Though it is obvious who is responsible for George's disappearance, and why, we are still left wondering about how.In a way, knowing before George knows makes the story even more engaging. I felt as if I had seen the end of a movie and now decided to watch the rest of it. I knew what would happen, but I wanted to see how the characters would make the discovery.This book certainly exceeded my expectations, and I am looking forward to discovering more of Braddon's work.Recommended!
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