Stephanie's Reviews > Lady Audley's Secret

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
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's review
Aug 19, 2012

it was ok
Read in August, 2012

I think this would be a good book either for a teenager looking for "difficult" books or for someone who generally doesn't like literature.

About fifty pages in, I realized this book had absolutely nothing to say about people, or morality, or society. However, reading to the end wasn't a chore, and the last fifty pages or so actually moved at a rapid pace. Good writing on the part of Braddon? Maybe I had just clued in to the fact that half of every page was description that neither served the plot nor gave symbolic depth ( as in "And now we will discuss furniture as a Metaphor For Life," or "The place was really run down, so I will describe it in hyperbole because hyperbole is clever").

Two major problems: The plot of the book often goes absolutely nowhere. Two thirds is Robert Audley wandering around, asking various stock characters about clues for Lucy Audley's past life. Which we already know everything about because of a chapter from her first husband's perspective early on. Pointless. What really makes a difference is how Lucy reacts to the slow disintegration of her plans and the raising of the stakes. But we don't get much of that, at least in the first two thirds of the book.

Other major problem: I didn't care about any of the major characters, at least for the reasons you're supposed to care about them. Liked Alycia, really sympathized with her for getting an Evil Stepmother, being estranged from her father, and never being good enough for the man she loves. However, she doesn't do much and pretty much drops out of the picture in the last fifty pages.

Robert Audley was a little interesting--as if Bertie Wooster had decided to become a serious detective. Someone who never does anything trying to do something and being completely out of his depth. However, he has no real character traits that make me root for him. As others on this site have pointed out, his friend George is shiftless and inconstant, and his love interest Clara appears for few scenes and is cardboard thin. His uncle's bland too. Robert seems to have some moment of conviction about the need to stop a woman's sin, but it just doesn't take, and feels shoehorned in by the author to make the tale more sensational.

Lucy Audley was a character I've seen a million times before--the supposedly ideal woman and wife (older husband) who Uses Her Femininity to get what she wants. I only really became interested when she started to lose it--just seeing how she reacts to all the pressure put on her.

I think the story would have worked better if it had been told entirely from Lucy's perspective and just focused on the one character instead of following Robert on his mind-bogglingly obvious interviews. There's a real Macbeth story going on here, where someone does something bad because, what the heck, they really really want to, and thinks "Just this once doesn't make me evil. I won't do anything bad again." But then someone finds out and the person goes "Oh, crap! Why do I have to keep doing more bad things to cover up the first one?"

But that's not the story Braddon wanted to tell or her audience wanted to hear. Set up an unnecessarily complicated cast of stock characters, develop none of them because the audience already knows how to pigeon hole them, throw in some long paragraphs of description that add nothing, don't forget your symbolism and literary allusions (they're like easter eggs full of chocolate that the readers just love to pick up, plus they make the author look smarter), and round out the story with some moralistic revelries (oops, reveries) that support societal norms--and you've got a Victorian novel people will be reading for years to come.

See Dickens' Tale of Two Cities.
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07/20 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Nathalia Love and second this review. Except I rooted for Lady Audley, which was propably not intended by the author and hated everyone else. Especially Robert, with his pseudo-intellectual musings. Just wanted to slap him over the head.

Sophie It's actually a depiction of the ways in which men in Victorian England in the late 19th Century felt threatened by the New Woman, and Robert Audley is seen to restore patriarchal order by being the driving force behind the plot and resolving the injustices.

Sonya-Jayne I completely concur with your review.

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