“Lady Audley’s Secret,” by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Novel, 1862

Melodrama of assumed identities, romance, arson, rags, riches and many points in between. What really stands out in this book are two strands and readings which make it feel modern – the technological advances shown in trains, telegrams and foreign travel and – particularly – the character of Lady Audley herself. Here is a woman who’s estranged from the narrative voice, but sits exactly in the middle of it, exercising an almost supernatural power which makes most of the other characters in the novel appear dull. The ending feels a little contrived, but there are plenty of twists, turns and enough to keep the reader guessing on some if not all points of the plot.

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