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Customer Review

23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Over the top, hysterical and utterly fabulous, 25 Aug. 2008
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This review is from: East Lynne (Oxford World's Classics) (Paperback)
For incident, drama, passion and intrigue 'East Lynne' makes 'The Woman in White' look like an exercise in quiet, dreary Sunday-afternoon restraint; and while the immortal line "Dead, and never called me mother!" is sadly absent (it comes from a stage adaptation rather than from the novel itself) the quotation does give an accurate taste of what the reader can expect.

The plot is quite straight forward: the lovely but poor Lady Isabel marries Archibald Carlyle, the local lawyer and all-round decent chap. Unfortunately she then finds herself eaten-up by jealousy as her husband begins to spend more and more time with the neighbourhood beauty Barbara Hare. Running away with the local charming cad, Francis Levison, Lady Isabel finds herself separated from her children and suddenly stuck with a boorish, brute of a man. Later however, as the devious hand of fate deals her a very peculiar hand indeed, she finds herself heavily disguised and back with her former husband as the governess to his (and of course to her own) children. As a word to describe the plot "implausible" doesn't do it justice but Ellen Wood carries the whole thing off with such style and panache that the 600 pages of the tale rattle along quite beautifully. She was, on the basis of this novel at least, an absolute natural when it came to telling a story and telling it well. The characters are all interesting and have their own peculiar traits: Carlyle's sister, Corny, for example is a shrieking harridan of fiscal prudence, while Justice Hare is a model of pompous bombast and his daughter - the very lovely Barbara - is the epitome of an innocent girl seething inwardly as unrequited love gnaws away at her soul. You care about the people Wood writes about and, aside from the oily Francis Levison, there isn't a character in the book who doesn't deserve some of the reader's sympathy and compassion.

Like all of Victorian sensation fiction there are secrets aplenty just waiting to be revealed at the most inconvenient moments and more overheard and misinterpreted conversations than you can shake a very large stick at, but the improbabilities of the plot never get in the way of what is a good old-fashioned rattling piece of story-telling. It's over the top, full of heaving bodices, tearful confessions and more drama than a novel should, by rights, be able to contain within its flimsy covers, but it is wonderful. Read it and, by turns, weep, laugh but most of all enjoy.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 5 Jan 2011 12:35:06 GMT
Last edited by the author on 5 Jan 2011 12:38:18 GMT
Louise K says:
A key part of the plot is given away in this review - I didn't know that Lady Isabel returns as a governess when I read this book myself. (In fact you give other parts of the plot away too but this I find the most important). I would have been very upset had I read this review complete with the spoilers! The various twists and turns are an inherent part of enjoying this novel - knowing them from the outcome tends to dull the reading experience somewhat. A review doesn't need to give a summary of the plot.
Edited to add: Having read further reviews there are others too which give too much of the game away - how unfair on other readers!

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Apr 2014 22:17:08 BDT
Eileen Shaw says:
It's a very bad habit to routinely give plot points like this one away, but I must admit I have done it myself in my early reviewing. Nowadays I'm much more careful.
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