August was a mont for the fabulous Victorian Sensation Book Club. This is always a highlight of the buddy reads as we enjoy some of the classics together. This month, the ‘unfinished’ novel of choice came from the pen of Charles Dickens – ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’.
This is quite a strange novel to read, as at the back of your mind all the time is the fact that Dickens never finished it. However, this story has all the elements of a Dickens tale – creatively named characters, excellent atmospheric setting and beautiful writing. However, for me, this was an interesting but slightly difficult novel to read. For quite a long time, and possibly until the end, it is not entirely clear where the story is going. It was obviously supposed to be a longer book. Yet, there was a great sense of mystery surronding many of the characters. Mr Jasper, choir master, was brilliantly complex and, even with what Dickens left us, we still do not really know if he is good, bad or completely misunderstood.
You can really feel that this is a sensation novel. You can recognise that there was a mentor and student relationship between Wilkie Collins and Dickens. However, I really wish that this had been completed because, for me, it is a confused book that doesn’t quite find its way.
Although, I am now going to read and research all the ideas that different scholars and literary critics have about how this may have endedm and see if it connects with any of my own ideas.
Since taking on my book blog just over three years ago, I have found some lovely bookish-minded people on Bookstagram – and it was such a collection in the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’ who encouraged me to read ‘Aurora Floyd’. Throughout January, we read and discussed the novel, even naming the actresses we would have loved to have seen (or even see) in a film adaptation of this gloriously melodramatic novel.
Aurora Floyd is from the pen of Mary Elizabeth Braddon, who also brought us ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’. A classic Victorian novelist who embodies the sensation genre with her wonderful tales. Aurora Floyd has a secret; a secret she really is not willing to share. However, as the tale develops and tragedy strikes, the secret is revealed – but not all mysteries are solved.
I could not put this novel down, and I was glad I was enjoying it as part of a read along, as I may have been tempted to rush through rather than savour the novel. As well as the beautiful writing, it has all the ingredients if a great mystery story. You have a secret, a cast of colourful characters – in the foreground and the background – and a murder…what more do you need? As well as a wonderful setting in the North of England and a nod to the racing word.
I am going to put it out there, despite (possibly) being a lesser-known novel, I preferred it to ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’. Do not get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed that book, but I felt this one had characters who were a little more relateable overall – especially Aurora herself.
So, if you fancy a novel that you may not normally have picked up – this is it!
I have mentioned before the fabulous Victorian Sensation Bookclub; a great bookstagram community who buddy-read a Victorian classic. September’s read was ‘Desperate Remedies’ by Thomas Hardy. Now, I will be honest, I was not sure about a Hardy novel. He has always been an author I had been intimitated by. I am not sure why – possibly becuase there seems to be a huge community of dedicated Hardy fans out there, and I was worried I would not become one.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by my Hardy reading experience. I will admit that it took me a while to get the hang of the style – I mean, why use a simple description when you can have an over-complicated one? However, when I reached the description of the mathematical angle being the cause of an event going unobserved, I decided I was well and truly sucked into Hardy’s world.
‘Desperate Remedies’ has everything that makes a Victorian Sensation exactly what it should be. There is mystery, intrigue, secrets, murder and adventure. I absolutely adored every moment of this book once I had got the hang of Hardy’s style. I found myself dragged into the drama and keen to know where the adventure would take me next.
I don’t want to share any spoilers, so I do not want to go into the details of the plot. However, I would recommend that people who enjoy a good bit of drama pick up this book.
So, I feel – or hope – I am a Hardy fan and I am ready to read more of his novels. Fingers crossed, I am not disappointed. The question is – what should I try next?
This month’s ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’ choice was ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’. This is a book that my mum had suggested I read rather a long time ago, but I had never quite got round to it. Now, I wish I had read it sooner (although, I do love reading with the lovely group on bookstagram).
Now, I have been slightly naughty and read ahead, because I could not put this book down. It takes me a while to read classics as you certainly need to concentrate to really enjoy the tales. And this tale is certainly enjoyable. To me, this novel reads like a classic detective novel. Although our investigator Robert Audley is not any kind of criminal investigator, he is determined to find out the fate of his friend George Talboys, simply motivated by his loyalty. I would not consider this a particularly complex story, but the writing makes it gripping and a thrilling read. There is also an interesting power play as Lady Audley appears to use her feminine fragility in order to attempt to control those around her, however this does not work on all or always make her particularly popular. In this novel there are twists and turns, and even when you think there are no more revelations another is sprung on you in the final chapters.
I am not going to reveal any spoilers other than it is a truly wonderful and atmospheric read. I would encourage you all to pick up this book and be introduced to a new writer and a new classic novel that should be on the shelves of all fans of Victorian literature.
Any favourites from the Victorian age you think I should pick up and read?
The Bookstagram community has been one of the best spaces I have found. It has brought together so many fabulous bookish people and it has encouraged me to read all sorts of books that I may not have read or have had on the to-be-read pile for a while.
My latest read-along (that I actually managed to complete and stick to) was ‘The Moonstone’, as part of the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’. This has been a lovely community where, in the month of November, we read a section a week shared our thoughts. There have been great discussions and such a friendly atmosphere (and the end of November does not mean that the chatting stops).
And, now to the novel, my only regret has been that I did not read this sooner. ‘The Moonstone’ is a story I have known for a long time thanks to TV and Radio adaptations, but I had never got round to picking the book up. What wasted time that was because I absolutely loved this!
From the moment I started this book I could not put it down. Collins created a wonderful detective story (some say the first modern one in fact) from the word go. You are drawn into the narrative by how ‘The Moonstone’ ended up leaving India and arriving in England. Even that simple introduction is shrouded in mystery just as the rest of the tale is. Collins creates a colourful cast of characters who become mixed up in the mystery of ‘The Moonstone’. However, together, they eventually also manage to solve the mystery of this magnificent stone.
This is a tale that has stood the test of time as it can still engage modern audiences. However, it is also a novel of its time with references specific to the period but all of that is the context of the era.
Reading ‘The Moonstone’ has firmly cemented Wilkie Collins in the territory of one of my favourite authors of the classics. I can not wait for the next read with the ‘Victorian Sensation Book Club’, which is ‘The Woman in White’ in January.