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Cover image of Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Inspired by a true life story, Lady Audley's Secret is the story of a woman's overwhelming ambition and passion for social success. When the first book came out in 1862, Victorian readers were shocked and outraged by its portrayal of aspects like bigamy, insanity, yearning for social status and the will to commit murder to achieve one's goals. The novel belongs to a genre that became very popular during that era. Known as “sensation novels” they can probably be equated to today's pulp fiction. It was received with huge enthusiasm by readers and most critics of the day and the central theme of “accidental bigamy” was a popular one. But the author Mary Elizabeth Braddon took it to new heights, introducing several intriguing twists and turns to the plot. In fact the novel was so successful that it allowed the author to become financially independent for the rest of her life and its publisher to purchase a villa, which he christened Audley Lodge, with the profits gained from sales of this Victorian bestseller!In the story, the young, enchanting, doll like Lucy Graham marries a wealthy old widower, Sir Michael Audley. Not much is known about Lucy by people in the village, except that she was till recently employed as a governess. The couple enjoys a pleasant life together, with every comfort and luxury. Things take a turn when Sir Michael's nephew and heir Robert Audley arrives with news of dear friend of his George Talboys. Talboys who had left England to seek his fortune gold prospecting in Australia is now suffering from a mental breakdown following the apparent death/disappearance of his wife whom he left behind. When Robert and George arrive at Audley Court, they're warmly welcomed by the host, but of the hostess there is no sign. She completely avoids coming into Talboys' presence. Her behavior begins to intrigue Robert and raise his suspicions and he sets out to uncover the mystery. But the truth is far more devastating and disturbing than anybody could imagine. Said to be based on events concerning the real life serial killer Constance Kent which had stunned the nation a few years ago, the book in fact explores many themes of Victorian morality, gender biases, stereotypes about the perfect mother and domestic goddesses who enriched the home and hearth with their innocence and purity. The author Mary Braddon's own controversial personal life and her nonchalant attitude to prevailing morals also piqued readers' imaginations. For modern day readers, Lady Audley's Secret remains a gripping tale of the lust for power and wealth and of a woman's descent into the misery of her own creation.

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