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Armadale (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 26 Jan 1995

4.4 out of 5 stars 76 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (26 Jan. 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140434119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140434118
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 3.3 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (76 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 64,962 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Wilkie Collins was born in London in 1824, the eldest son of the landscape painter William Collins. In 1846, having spent five years in the tea business, he was entered to read for the bar at Lincoln's Inn, where he gained the legal knowledge that was to give him much material for his writing.

From the early fifties, he was a friend of Charles Dickens, acting with him, contributing to Household Words, travelling with him on the Continent. Dickens produced and acted in two melodramas written by Collins, The Lighthouse (1855) and The Frozen Deep (1857).

Collins is best remembered for his novels, particularly The Woman in White (1860) and The Moonstone (1868), which T. S. Eliot called 'the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels'. His later, and at the time rather sensational, novels include The New Magdalen (1873) and The Law and The Lady (1875). Collins also braved the moral censure of the Victorian age by keeping two women (and their households) while marrying neither. He died in 1889.

Product Description

Review

A gloriously dark tale of mixed identities and the irresistible, wicked Lydia Gwilt. Forget Dallas and Eastenders, this has to be the greatest of all soap operas. (Steven Isserlis, The Week) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Wilkie Collins was born in London in 1824. From the early 1850s he was a friend of Charles Dickens' and contributed to Household Works. Collins began by writing plays, but is most remembered for his novels, including The Moonstone (1868) and The Woman in White (1860). He died in 1889.


John Sutherland is Professor of English at University College, London. He has edited many books for Penguin Classics, including Anthony Trollope.


Inside This Book

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It was the opening of the season of eighteen hundred and thirty-two, at the Baths of WILDBAD. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I stayed up night after night until I had finished this book, and was exhausted physically and emotionally afterwards! After a slow start (only a few pages, go with it), I couldn't get enough of it. It is by far the best book I have ever read. Lydia Gwilt and Mother Oldershaw are glorious examples of cunning and connivance, and I couln't help thinking that Allan Armadale deserved it to some extent, being at times annoyingly naive. I was left at a loss for days after finishing it, and what glorious character names Collins comes up with - where else would you find such a name Ozias Midwinter. If you like a touch of the gothic running through your Victoriana, then this is the book for you.
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Format: Paperback
Wilkie Collins is often seen as a poor man's Dickens. I see him as Dickens without the exaggerated characters and ridiculous names. His novels also seem more naturally written and less formulaic than Dickens.
The first chapters of Armadale open with a dramatic death-bed scene which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the book - 'The sins of the fathers shall be visited on the children'. The book is based around one of Collins' pet themes - doubles - in this case two men with the same name. The viewpoint of the book shifts between various characters and in places, letter-writing is used to carry the story (a favourite Collins device).
As ever with Collins, the the character construction is outstanding. You live these people's lives and experience their emotions. Weeks after reading the books, you can still feel their existence. Of course the author spends most time on the main two or three characters, but Collins always singles out a few more to give his attention to. In this case, two of the most poignant supporting characters in English fiction - an embittered bedridden older woman who believes any woman is after her homely husband; and an astonishingly unattractive middle-aged man who is so besotted by our heroine that he would give up everything. Masterfully, Collins builds these people up as pathetic, powerless, individuals but the strength of emotion in each is able to cause chaos.
And so to our heroine, Lydia Gwilt - the classic nineteenth-century adventuress. The great achievement of Armadale is the reader's changing perception of her as the narrative shifts perspective. This perception varies from seeing her as a remote object of fear to a criminal to a victim to an object of desire. As the perspective of the book shifts, you desperately want her to succeed and be happy.
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Format: Paperback
I came to Armadale after reading the Woman in White, which I had very much enjoyed. The Woman in White was a victorian sensationalist masterpiece, but I think that Armadale just about manages to surpass it, if only through its sheer scale. The action in the novel takes place across several decades, and stretches from the West Indies to a German spa town, to Naples and England. By the end of the novel I truly felt that Collins had taken me on an epic journey through the victorian world.

The character of Lydia Gwilt is quite possibly the best female character to appear in nineteenth century fiction. She is an endlessly fascinating figure, and by far the strongest character in the book. Many of the other characters are also very interesting, though perhaps a little clichéd.

There are a few flaws, the theme of fatalism is somewhat overdone at times, and frankly the book would be better without the recurring problem of 'the dream', however useful it was as a plot device. It is also fair to say that the pace in the first half sometimes slackens, but it is never dull. I raced through the last two hundred pages, reading into the small hours, and I can promise that the climax does not disappoint, even if you did (sort of) wish for a different ending, as I did. I shall definitely be reading the rest of Collins' work, next up the Moonstone!
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Format: Paperback
I have always wanted to read Wilkie Collins `Armadale' partly because I think he is a genius and I love the sensational fiction he writes. I also wanted to read this because I had heard so much about the villainess (am not giving anything away its on the blurb of the book) Lydia Gwilt "flame-haired temptress, bigamist, laudanum addict and husband poisoner" in fact so malicious and evil that publishers were incredibly shocked and refused to believe that women could behave in such a manner and the book was almost never published, I think people also tried to ban it. So imagine my surprise when 150 pages in she still had yet to even show up. Hang on I have gotten ahead of myself...

The book opens as a dying man arrives in the German town of Wildbad (Collins as ever is a genius with names in this book) where the water is said to restore ones health, sadly for Allan Armadale it is too late, as he dies he has one wish and that is for someone to write his young son a letter. As the only English writing person on site Mr Neal becomes embroiled in the telling of a shocking murderous tale. All this and we are only in chapter one of `book the first'. What does become apparent is the misuse of identity which has led to two young Allan Armadale's and the end of the letter states...

And, more than all avoid the man who bears the same name as your own. Offend your best benefactor, if that benefactor's influence has connected you one with the other. Desert the woman who loves you, if that woman is a link between you and him. Hide yourself from him, under an assumed name. Put the mountains and the seas between you; be ungrateful; be unforgiving; be all that is most repellent to your own gentler nature, rather than live under the same roof, and breathe the same air with that man.
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