Thursday, October 14, 2010
Review: Lady Audley's Secret
This is a delightful Victorian Gothic novel, full of suspense and intrigue. Braddon's book has all of the elements of a good Victorian suspense tale: a country estate inhabited by the landed gentry, a pining lover, and a Victorian lady who is not what she seems.
George Talboys arrives home from Australia to discover his wife has died. Robert Audley, seeing his friend mad with grief, brings George to Audley Court, his uncle's country estate. It is at Audley Court that Talboys mysteriously vanishes. As Robert investigates his friend's disappearance, it becomes clear that the prime suspect is the lady of the court, Robert's new aunt, Lady Audley. Beautiful and child-like, the fact that Lady Audley may be a cold-blooded murderer adds a particularly horrifying twist for a Victorian readership.
Anyone who thinks that the Victorians couldn't produce a page-turner should have a look at this book. Braddon effectively creates a dark and suspenseful atmosphere. While she relies on particularly Victorian conventions to do this, such as stressing Lady Audley's hyper-femininity, the result is still sufficiently gripping, even for the modern reader.
Mary Braddon, Lady Audley's Secret (Virago, 1987, orig. 1862)