Saturday, 10 December 2011

Mary Elizabeth Braddon began writing when she was eight; abandoned by her feckless father, she went on the stage to help support her family and made her debut as Fairy Pineapple in panto. She had six children by the Irish editor who published her sensational serials but couldn't marry him because his wife was in an insane asylum in Dublin.
So as you can see, she wasn't going to be short of ideas for penny-dreadful fiction.
I've just finished Lady Audley's Secret. (I'm sure I read Aurora Floyd years and years ago - it's here on the shelf - but I can't remember a single thing about it.)
Lady Audley has all the ingredients ... a wicked lady with the looks of an angel - a besotted husband - a suspicious nephew - blackmail, arson, attempted murder - oodles of secrets and aliases - a gloomy shrubbery where something horrible has happened ...
But even though I love a bit of Victorian melodrama, I didn't find myself quite as engrossed as I expected to be. Braddon isn't anywhere near as accomplished a writer as Wilkie Collins (to be fair, she was only in her 20s when she wrote this) and whereas I've read the Woman in White at least three or four times, I can't imagine wanting to revisit Lady Audley. It was originally published over 13 weeks and I do think that I'd have enjoyed it much better in smaller doses. Thanks to Cornflower, though, for providing the nudge because I've been meaning to read this for years. And I'm sure that she's right and that Lady Audley is a Victorian prototype for Daphne du Maurier's My Cousin Rachel. Now that was really gripping ...

3 comments:

Sue said...

My great-grandfather didn't marry my great-grandmother until my grandmother was 17 because he had an insane wife in a Dutch asylum. My great-grandmother was disowned by her Jewish family for taking up with a gentile. How's that for melodrama?

mary said...

What a terrific story, Sue - sounds like the makings of your first novel?

Toffeeapple said...

Ooh Sue, what an interesting family. As Mary says, perhaps your first novel?