Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Narrator: Olivia Poulet
Published by Audible Studios on February 26, 2019 (first published 1862)
Source: Audible Plus
Genres: Classic, Gothic
Length: 13 hrs 11 mins
Pages: 455
Format: Audiobook
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four-half-stars

Published in 1862, Lady Audley’s Secret is one of Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s most successful and well-known pieces of work. A founding text of the sensation novel genre, it delivers high drama with mystery, intrigue and plot twists aplenty. Comfortable in her place as a Lady of Audley Court, the beautiful and enchanting Lucy Graham soon finds her status brought into question following the disappearance of a man recently returned from Australia. As the hunt for the missing man intensifies, the threads of Lady Audley’s story begin to unravel, and our antiheroine must do all she can to prevent her past from catching up with her. Playing on Victorian anxieties about the domestic sphere and social mobility, Lady Audley’s Secret was a scandal for its Victorian audience. Its engrossing secrets and startling revelations continue to shock and entertain to this day.

Told by an unknown narrator, the story is focused on a “secret” of a woman named Lady Audley and the ultimate revelation of what that secret is. While you may think relatively soon into the book that you know Lady Audley’s Secret, that the author has told us, you’d be wrong. The secret remains closely guarded right u to the time it is confessed by Lady Audley. I will be honest, though, the secret is not the strong part of the book. She lays down clues and throws hints here and there without giving way too much and keeping the secret well-guarded until the time is right for a confession by Lady Audley.

I enjoyed the writing. The descriptions of the settings and characters put you there with them. I listened to Lady Audley’s Secret just after The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. They were written around the same time and both “sensational” novels, but this one felt tighter to me. I was more invested in the story.

The characters are the stars. The main male character, Robert Audley, is a young barrister, the nephew of Lady Audley’s husband. He is lazy and purposeless, but when his friend disappears, presumably killed, he needs to find the truth behind what happened. Robert gathers clues and evidence, but at the same time worries what effect that truth will have on his family. Robert grows a lot through the story. I liked him.

While Robert Audley is the detective, we know early on that Lady Audley is the villain. Lady Audley is beautiful and cunning, intelligent, resourceful, and dangerous. She’s not content with where life has left her so she takes it into her own hands to improve her lot, but whatever means she needs to use. The story really is the battle between these two. The other characters are fully-developed and fit their assigned places in the plot, but Robert and Lady Audley are the focus.

The plot has plenty of twists and turns and surprised me more than once. It’s a good read for a cool, dreary fall day.

About Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Mary Elizabeth Braddon was a British Victorian era popular novelist. She was an extremely prolific writer, producing some 75 novels with very inventive plots. The most famous one is her first novel, Lady Audley’s Secret (1862), which won her recognition and fortune as well. The novel has been in print ever since, and has been dramatized and filmed several times.

Braddon also founded Belgravia Magazine (1866), which presented readers with serialized sensation novels, poems, travel narratives, and biographies, as well as essays on fashion, history, science. She also edited Temple Bar Magazine. Braddon’s legacy is tied to the Sensation Fiction of the 1860s.

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