Braddon, Mary Elizabeth - 'Lady Audley's Secret'
This extraordinary story was originally published in weekly instalments in the magazine "The London Journal" in 1862. It enjoyed considerable success and has been made into a film on several occasions and it has been recently serialised on BBC Radio 4. It explores themes of murder, bigamy, blackmail, mental illness and the difficulties of women in Victorian Britain. At that time women had no legally defined status at all. They were in effect owned by their husbands. Lady Audley attempts to change that presumption.
The story opens with a pen picture of beautiful, young Lucy Graham who is employed as a governess to the family of a surgeon living in the village of Audley Court, near Saffron Walden in Essex. She comes to the attention of Sir Michael Audley, who meets with her and after a whirlwind courtship they get married. As he is 56 year-old widower and she is a young 22 year-old entering a world of wealth from one of relative poverty, there are doubts about her readiness for this.
Then we hear of a Mr George Talboys, who is an Eton educated young man who falls in love with a young girl but has to emigrate to Australia, to hunt for gold as he needs money desperately. He returns with a lot of wealth but discovers that his wife has died. He rediscovers his friendship with someone he knew in Eton who happens to be the nephew of Sir Michael Audley and this nephew is very suspicious of the bona fides of the new wife of his uncle.
This novel was very fast flowing and was much more enjoyable than I initially imagined and if you get the chance, I recommend that you read it!
Terry Halligan, England
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