Review: Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
Perhaps one of the most famous works of scandal fiction of all time, Lady Audley's Secret has something to either titilate or offend absolutely everyone. This isn't an academic kind of a classic by any stretch, or even the best of its era, but there is something absolutely addictive about this book. Lady Audley is young, beautiful and mysterious. Everyone, but for her stepdaughter, loves her and she manages to charm all that she meets. Then one day the paths of Lady Audley and that of her husband's nephew Robert and his loyal friend George Talboys, a man who is suffering an intense grief for his recently deceased wife, cross and things are never quite the same. Robert is determined to get to the bottom of why Lady Audley behaved so strangely around his friend, and why George has not been seen since. He knows there is more to the story, but to get to the truth, he will uncover a deception so huge that it involves bigamy, child abandonment, insanity and perhaps even murder ...
This novel most definitely falls into the category of a guilty pleasure read and it works all the better if one is to consider it such. Lady Audley is an intriguing and bedazzling character--though something of an airhead, her ability to manipulate all around her is second to none. In places her character reminded me somewhat of Corrine Foxworth, the vapid and self-centred mother from Flowers in the Attic who locked up and ultimately poisoned her children in the hope of winning back her inheritance. (Given V.C. Andrews love of gothic literature, and her own genius at spinning guilty pleasure tales, I would not be surprised to learn that she had, indeed, read Lady Audley's Secret.) Robert himself is a fairly boring character, but a useful one who drives the story.
Not every classic has to be a great epic, or an academic work to be enjoyable, and Lady Audley's Secret certainly falls into the category of a guilty pleasure read. Or, perhaps, just a book to be read for pleasure. After all, who doesn't want to get amusement from their reading material from time to time?