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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 31 March 2017
First published in 1862, at which time its themes of avarice, bigamy and murder shocked and tantalized its readers, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's 'Lady Audley's Secret' became one of the most sensational novels of its time. The novel's main protagonist is the young and beautiful Lucy Graham, a penniless governess who attracts the attention of the wealthy widower Sir Michael Audley, whose country seat is Audley Court. When Sir Michael proposes, the lovely Lucy accepts and she looks forward to a life of luxury and ease; however, her relationship with her new stepdaughter, Alicia, leaves a lot to be desired, and when Sir Michael's nephew, Robert, arrives at Audley Court with his friend, George Tallboys (who has recently returned from Australia and is grieving from the death of the wife he left behind in England), Lucy's behaviour becomes rather erratic and she makes excuses to avoid meeting them. And then George suddenly and very mysteriously disappears and Robert, distrusting his lovely, but manipulative new step-aunt, decides to investigate Lucy's past - however, to reveal more would spoil the story for those who have yet to read the novel.

Influenced by the case of the real-life murderess Constance Kent, and where alongside its themes of bigamy and murder, are those of gender and class, this 'sensation' novel, like Wilkie Collins' hugely entertaining 'The Woman in White', requires the reader to suspend their disbelief at times, but also has them rapidly turning the pages in order to discover Lady Audley's secret. And although it is fairly clear from early on in the story what the lovely Lucy is trying to conceal, we do not know the full depth of her deception, and of what she is prepared to do keep her secret, until all is finally revealed towards the end of the story. Although I have to say that this is not a novel in which the plot bears close analysis, I was drawn into the story from the opening pages and was entertained from start to finish.

4 Stars.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 3 May 2018
Reading this book confirmed that a story told well, makes for great entertainment no matter when it was written. The language was straightforward and easy to read although it did feel longer than many contemporary novels that is probably because it was originally written in instalments for her lover’s magazine in 1861 and even when it was published in 1862, it was split into three parts.

The book starts by taking us to the courtship of the beautiful and childlike blonde Lucy Graham by the somewhat older widower Sir Michael Audley who falls deeply in love with her and hopes she feels the same. She wisely promises nothing but agrees to become his wife which is a major step-up in society since she is currently the governess for a local doctor.

"She had been the chief attraction of the race-course, and was wearied out by the exertion of fascinating half the county."

"For you see Miss Lucy Graham was blessed with that magic power of fascination by which a woman can charm with a word or intoxicate with a smile."

Soon afterwards we meet up with Sir Audley’s nephew Richard who is meeting his friend George Talboys, who has returned from Australia having made his fortune in the gold rush. Despite his absence of three years he is keen to see his young wife who he left with a mere note following a bit of a row. George and Heleen Talboys had a baby but he doesn’t seem to have the same pull on dear old George’s vision of a happy homecoming. Anyway Richard and George meet up but a notice in the newspaper puts a spanner in the works and they soon have to make a trip to the Isle of Wight on the trail of the missing Helen.

This story is above everything else, fun. I could spend an age explaining that it became popular, if not revered in the way the ‘serious’ novelists of the time were, because it played on the Victorian’s fear that the home wasn’t always the safe haven that they liked to pretend it was. It is here that the parallels with Constance Kent were drawn. A respectable family, a step-mother and murder all play their own part in Mary Elizabeth Bradon’s dramatic tale. But I won’t do that, nor will I add more than a sentence about the breakdown of the old order by pretty young women seducing foolish old men thereby usurping the old order of things.
The characters are all seen through our omnipresent narrator’s eyes and ears, and yes, there is a certain amount of stereotyping some of them. Fortunately, I’m not a snob about such things, after all stereotypes are created for a reason and there is enough drama and subversion of the ‘old order’ to quibble that the rough husband of Lady Audley’s maid, Phoebe Marks is a bit of brute with no redeeming characteristics when at the heart of the novel is a woman whose beauty doesn’t translate to the ideals of the day.
The omnipresent narrator is there from beginning to end but once Richard Audley’s story begins we are also treated to less remote view of the scenes that unfold.
“You seem to have quite a taste for discussing these horrible subjects,” she said, rather scornfully; “you ought to have been a detective police officer.”
“I sometimes think I should have been a good one.”
“Why?”
“Because I am patient.”
But if you are expecting the fair Lady Audley to give you some insight into her secret, you will be disappointed, that is a matter of deduction for the reader and even if you reach the truth before our amateur detective Richard Audley, you will need to continue to find out how it all ends, surely the purpose of a good book. However if you’d like you might like to reflect on the pronouncement made in this sensationalist novel, take note that this was written over one hundred and fifty years ago – what would Mary Elizabeth Braddon make of the modern woman’s opportunities?For you see Miss Lucy Graham was blessed with that magic power of fascination by which a woman can charm with a word or intoxicate with a smile.
Soon afterwards we meet up with Sir Audley’s nephew Richard who is meeting his friend George Talboys, who has returned from Australia having made his fortune in the gold rush. Despite his absence of three years he is keen to see his young wife who he left with a mere note following a bit of a row. George and Heleen Talboys had a baby but he doesn’t seem to have the same pull on dear old George’s vision of a happy homecoming. Anyway Richard and George meet up but a notice in the newspaper puts a spanner in the works and they soon have to make a trip to the Isle of Wight on the trail of the missing Helen.

This story is above everything else, fun. I could spend an age explaining that it became popular, if not revered in the way the ‘serious’ novelists of the time were, because it played on the Victorian’s fear that the home wasn’t always the safe haven that they liked to pretend it was. It is here that the parallels with Constance Kent were drawn. A respectable family, a step-mother and murder all play their own part in Mary Elizabeth Bradon’s dramatic tale. But I won’t do that, nor will I add more than a sentence about the breakdown of the old order by pretty young women seducing foolish old men thereby usurping the old order of things.

The characters are all seen through our omnipresent narrator’s eyes and ears, and yes, there is a certain amount of stereotyping some of them. Fortunately, I’m not a snob about such things, after all stereotypes are created for a reason and there is enough drama and subversion of the ‘old order’ to quibble that the rough husband of Lady Audley’s maid, Phoebe Marks is a bit of brute with no redeeming characteristics when at the heart of the novel is a woman whose beauty doesn’t translate to the ideals of the day.

The omnipresent narrator is there from beginning to end but once Richard Audley’s story begins we are also treated to less remote view of the scenes that unfold.

“You seem to have quite a taste for discussing these horrible subjects,” she said, rather scornfully; “you ought to have been a detective police officer.”
“I sometimes think I should have been a good one.”
“Why?”
“Because I am patient.”

But if you are expecting the fair Lady Audley to give you some insight into her secret, you will be disappointed, that is a matter of deduction for the reader and even if you reach the truth before our amateur detective Richard Audley, you will need to continue to find out how it all ends, surely the purpose of a good book. However if you’d like you might like to reflect on the pronouncement made in this sensationalist novel, take note that this was written over one hundred and fifty years ago – what would Mary Elizabeth Braddon make of the modern woman’s opportunities?
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on 5 November 2017
This 1862 novel has a rattling good storyline. The language is of the time but very charming. The author has a good eye for detail and her descriptions are really evocative. The plot revolves around solving the mystery surrounding the life and death of one character and the consequent unravelling of Lady Audley's secret. For a modern reader, there are too many pages of philosophical musings in the second half of the book. I skipped them! But nonetheless it is very engaging and keeps you wanting to read on right to the end. Enjoy.
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on 30 April 2015
I downloaded this book after attending a lunchtime talk about Mary Braddon, I was so interested that I thought I'd see why it has remained in the public domain for over 100 years. Well, it read very easily, very much like a modern novel. Obviously it is of its time regarding manners, clothing and speech patterns, but the plot was intricate and moved along at a good pace. To a modern reader, the ending is no surprise, but I can imagine the sensation it caused when it was first published. If you're a fan of thrillers, give this a go - you might be pleasantly surprised and after all - it's free!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 14 February 2012
The book starts with the reader being introduced to the central male character, Robert Audley, a lawyer by training, but an idler by occupation, who has never taken a brief and has no intention of doing so. He spends his time smoking and reading novels in his rooms, and visiting friends in the country. He meets up with an old friend of his, George Talboys, who six years earlier had left his wife and young child in the care of her father and gone to Australia to seek his fortune (how Victorian is that!). He has not communicated with them during that period, but has just returned a rich man and hopes to be re-united with his family. However, he happens to see an announcement that his wife died just days before his ship docked. The news devastates George and to distract him Robert invites him to spend time at the Essex house of his 60-year-old uncle, Sir Michael Audley, and his wife. The latter is in her twenties and the couple has only been married for a year or so. The effusive description of her great beauty and childlike nature is remarkably similar to George's description of his dead wife. The reader is alerted that `something is not right'.

Lady Audley contrives to be away during the visit, but in her absence Robert and George enter her apartment and there see a portrait of her. It has a profound effect on both men, George in particular. While waiting for the return of Sir Michael and his wife, George disappears without leaving any explanation for Robert. Most of the rest of the novel is concerned with Robert's attempts to find his friend. Along the way he begins to unravel the true nature of Lady Audley's character and her relationship to George. It is not difficult for the reader to guess what `Lady Audley's secret' is, but it takes Robert a long time to put all the pieces together to make his case watertight enough to convince Sir Michael. The subsequent detective work involves several complicated subplots with various twists and turns, and many subsidiary characters. In the end, all is revealed and Lady Audley is punished (although rather harshly by modern standards) and conveniently dies a few years later. George reappears, having spent time in America, and is reunited with his family and Robert. The latter is a `new man', with good intentions to abandon his idle life; and the young people in the story, Robert, George's sister Clara, and Sir Audley's daughter Alicia, are either happily married, or well on their way to being so. Even George, with his dubious former behaviour, is settled.

Most of the many characters are well described, although the frequent many-layered descriptions of the dazzling beauty of Lady Audley are such that it is a wonder than anyone beholding her is not blinded by her appearance. The contrast with the rather dull character of Robert is striking. The descriptive passages of scenes are excellent and give a good feeling for the period. Even an impoverished music teacher has a maid; Robert sends `telegraphic communications' from Essex to London and beyond and receives replies within an hour or so; frequent trains run between obscure stations at all hours of the night and day and so he is able to make convenient trips all over the country in his quest to solve the puzzle. Of course there are many coincidences to ease the plot forward, and some stock characters, but no more than usual for a novel of the period.

This book is both one of the great Victorian `sensational novels' and a morality story. It made the author's reputation and fortune and has hardly ever been out of print since it was first published in 1862. It is easy to see why.
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on 5 April 2017
I have not got to the end of this book yet but am enjoying reading it. The plot seems sometimes a llittle contrived, if not to say very contrived in some places, but it is nevertheless a gripping story and the characters do come alive, especially Robert Audley. There are long passages of "philosophising" in between the action so if you just like to race through a book and see "whodunnit" you may find this tiresome. Although I prefer a book which I can linger on and read again at some time, I am finding Lady Audley requires a good degree of concentration and I am not at all sure I have truly understood all the "phlosophising". Nevertheless, I find it well-worth reading and, when once I have finished it, will definitely be reading it again at some time in the future.
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on 14 January 2018
but this one quite enjoyed. Not just as a thriller novel but also simply as a fiction. The characters are well built and the storyline flows without wastage. Lovely writing that reminded me of Edith Wharton when the maniac heroine has her chance to deliver her point of view defending her actions. By that Brandon shows her sympathy for all those poor bone to struggle atypical in Victorian time. The narrator nicely done too. As well read as done by Elizabeth Klett. Clear to hear and flawless. Even though the high pitched voice (and this is not just because the heroine is known for her childlike behaviour and style) bothered me personally.
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on 28 December 2017
I chose 4*s for this book, 5 for the intriguing mystery I looked forward to reading the next chapter every night, but 4 for the lengthy descriptive passages. These descriptions whilst extremely well written, were just too long though after reading the first few lines I realised the gist of it and skipped to the next sentence to get on with the story. I very much enjoyed this book.
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on 17 January 2016
This is the first novel I've read by M.E. Braddon and it was surprisingly enjoyable. I'm a fan of modern horror/crime novels, and reading up on early gothic novels such as this can give a real sense of where the genre began. Braddon has a timeless edge to her writing style, which mean that even though the story is steeped in a period setting there is a contemporary edge to the way the story unfolds, much like some modern day crime novels. As a kindle edition, it read very well with no issues whatsoever. The only reason this got 4 stars instead of 5 is that I felt the end to the story had a lack of creativity to it, and Braddon was quick to summarise which was a real shame given how well delivered the rest of the novel is.
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on 31 December 2010
A very engrossing read indeed. Once I had started it I couldn't help but be drawn into the story and wanted nothing more than to read on and on until all was disclosed. And yet M E Braddon never suffered her book to be liable to be thought plausible. And she disposed as well of a great many conventionalities of 19th century novels, such as maintaining suspense how long as possible -in her book we are made aware of Lady Audley's bigamy in the second chapter, so quite early on to say the least- and having irreproachable heros - what can we say of George Talboy, poor George Talboy the martyr if we are to believe everything that is said of him and of his noble heart...but wasn't he the same man who left his young wife and her baby, deserted them in fact for three years and a half without sending any line as to his whereabouts- and what can we say of Robert Audley, the hero, who has a pretty devoted and spirited young woman at his feet who would gladly be his for the asking and yet falls in love with another young woman whom we meet briefly in the middle of the book and is never heard of anymore until the end.You will see that plausibility is not the novel's greatest strength and yet I must say that none of the irregularities encountered stop the reader from enjoying this great nonsensical story to the utmost.
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