Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Sensational!

What have I been doing with my time? The war films are building up. There are two books on Dunkirk on my desk. I haven't sewed since we started on pre holiday rationing. And it's not that I'm organizing the holiday - because I'm not. The truth is I've been sucked into the world of mid Victorian Sensation fiction. There's madness and murder, bigamy, illegitimacy, blackmail and drugs. And it's so good! The Sensation novel emerged in 1860s England. This was a huge time for reading. A tax had been abolished that led to the creation of many newspapers, circulating libraries were booming, publishing skyrocketed, reading crossed classes and gender. This is the time of serialized fiction. A novel would appear in parts over a number of months - sometimes as long as 19. The writers were typically writing as they went, maybe only a few episodes ahead of the reader. Sensation fiction combined the Gothic novel with the domestic. It transposed horrors into the middle class home. The Victorian feminine ideal - a sexless, childlike creature, all curls and gentleness - hides the face of a murderous, scheming bigamist (who we secretly quite admire, or at least understand) Or faints and fades away before an altogether more robust model. These novels are nothing if not subversive. They dwell a lot on madness too - there was quite a scandal at this time when it was realized that lunatic asylums were filled with quite a few sane people who their families had paid to be rid of. So far I've read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher - a nonfiction piece on a 1860 murder that inspired many writers- Lady Audley's Secret, The moonstone, The woman in white, the secret of Edwin Drood (which technically is only half a book because Dickens died before he could finish it - but in any case the secret isn't very secret so i think i can mange without reading the end). I've just started Armadale, have East Lynne on my pile and I've ordered a book called Victorian murder, madness and sensation. I am completely addicted. Toodle Pip!

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Try Wilkie Collins The Lady and the Law. I love women who don't give up.
JR

Curvy Kitty said...

I'm running out of time to read them all pre holiday!

Anonymous said...

ooh sounds like good reading can you leave a favorite on my desk sometime soon?
amanda