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Old 08-06-2021, 04:02 PM   #16
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Sensation novelists were able to deal explicitly with subject matter not normally found, or accepted, in novels available to a genteel reading public -- such as adultery, seduction, illegitimate children, false identities, etc. And, the main characters were women -- who were set up to sin, briefly enjoy the results of their transgressions, suffer, and then repent and be punished. It was up to the reader to decide if the character had truly repented and deserved forgiveness for their sins, or instead, righteous moral condemnation.
Thanks for the background on the genre! Your description definitively fits "Lady Audley's Secret", but in Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White", the main characters are victims and/or heroes, but don't transgress (except, in Laura's case, by being incredibly naive). Would you say that "Woman in White" isn't a sensation novel, or is it just an atypical one?

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...in the extremely heavy handed foreshadowing incident of Captain Levison stepping upon, and breaking in two, Lady Isabel's cross
Heh, yes, it was pretty heavy handed It was about as subtle as the cask of red wine breaking in a Paris street in the beginning of "A Tale of Two Cities". I actually liked that part -- there's something refreshing about a book which isn't afraid to declare loudly what it is.

The description of Isabel made her seem extremely bland. I'm worried she'll turn out out be a sexy lamp ("if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft").
I looked up the description of Laura (the damsel in distress in "The Woman in White") for comparison, and although she's not brimming with personality, the description hints at her flaws which are important to the story.

I'm not fond of the omniscient point of view. I much prefer to see what happens trough the eyes of one or more of the people in the story. Not to say that it can't be done well -- I love Austen's books -- but it makes it that much harder for me to care about the characters.

So far I've just read two chapters. I'm planning to go on, but will most likely read a chapter or two inbetween other books.

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Old 08-06-2021, 04:25 PM   #17
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*snip*

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Thanks for the background on the genre! Your description definitively fits "Lady Audley's Secret", but in Wilkie Collins' "The Woman in White", the main characters are victims and/or heroes, but don't transgress (except, in Laura's case, by being incredibly naive). Would you say that "Woman in White" isn't a sensation novel, or is it just an atypical one?
Sensation novels could be sentimental, Gothic, melodramatic, supernatural, etc. To me, the key element is the fantastic nature of the plot -- the number and type of coincidences included (and believed by the characters), the success of secret/false identities, the acceptance of supernatural elements, the hoarding of secrets, the number of turns & twists of the plot, the convenient accidents, the gullibility of characters, etc.

So, yes, I think Woman in White can be regarded as a sensation novel.
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Old 08-07-2021, 12:41 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by poohbear_nc View Post
Sensation novels could be sentimental, Gothic, melodramatic, supernatural, etc. To me, the key element is the fantastic nature of the plot -- the number and type of coincidences included (and believed by the characters), the success of secret/false identities, the acceptance of supernatural elements, the hoarding of secrets, the number of turns & twists of the plot, the convenient accidents, the gullibility of characters, etc. (emphasis mine)
Oh, you mean it's a Georgette Heyer Regency???
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Old 08-07-2021, 05:00 PM   #19
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I’ve got it lined up to start next, and looking forward to it. poohbear mentioned The Woman in White in the op, which I really enjoyed, so I’m excited to see how this compares.
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Old 08-13-2021, 04:35 AM   #20
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I went with the audiobook, which happened to have only just been released in April this year, so that’s serendipitous.

It’s entertaining so far a few chapters in. poohbear mentioned heavy-handedness in foreshadowing and I might expand that to include heavy-handedness generally; certainly Wood won’t be accused of an overabundance of subtlety, lol. If the story is enjoyable though these things can fall by the wayside.

hildea, your mention of the ‘sexy lamp’ for Isabel made me laugh although it’s sad that it’s a common enough trope to qualify for naming.
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Old 08-15-2021, 09:43 AM   #21
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I agree with you and poohbear, sun surfer - distinctly heavy-handed!

I started reading a few days ago and am finding it clunky, but the story moves along well enough. I thought the introduction of the sub-plot of a murder was done clumsily.

I have just finished Chapter 14, so Isabel has now married Carlyle. Things can only go from bad to worse now, as Mrs Wood has warned us!

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Old 08-17-2021, 06:56 AM   #22
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I'm getting the feeling that Daphne du Maurier must have read East Lynne - there are reminders of Rebecca, for me at least.
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Old 08-17-2021, 11:44 AM   #23
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Yes, distinctly heavy-handed. I feel like I'm reading a less well written Georgette Heyer Regency.
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Old 08-17-2021, 12:06 PM   #24
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I agree with you and poohbear, sun surfer - distinctly heavy-handed!

I started reading a few days ago and am finding it clunky, but the story moves along well enough. I though the introduction of the sub-plot of a murder was done clumsily.

I have just finished Chapter 14, so Isabel has now married Carlyle. Things can only go from bad to worse now, as Mrs Wood has warned us!
Oi - spoiler alert
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Old 08-17-2021, 07:07 PM   #25
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Sorry if that’s so, but I had thought as with the previous book, that anyone just starting would avoid the thread until they were ready. Spoilers weren’t used for the Eliot discussion for that reason.

Actually, your mention of Mrs Doubtfire gave me information I didn’t have until then about how things might develop!
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Old 08-18-2021, 04:49 PM   #26
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Yes, distinctly heavy-handed. I feel like I'm reading a less well written Georgette Heyer Regency.
As I was reading, I kept trying to notice/figure out what made this book resonate so much with the general reading public - and for so many years, and in additional media (stage, film).

I would be interested in seeing your thoughts on this as you progress through the book. Early comments in this thread (including mine) have focused on criticism of the writing style and content ... but this book was a smash best-seller and fueled rep theater over decades. What do you think hooked the public in 1861, and kept folks coming back over and over - up to the film versions in 1931 and 1982?
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Old 08-18-2021, 07:03 PM   #27
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Perhaps the fascination of a heroine who is a “fallen woman”, which was presumably a novelty at the time? I’m not up to the “fall” yet, but you can see it coming a mile off. A generation or so later (I haven’t checked the dates) Tess of the D’Urbervilles was huge too.

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Old 08-23-2021, 02:47 PM   #28
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I agree with you and poohbear, sun surfer - distinctly heavy-handed!

I started reading a few days ago and am finding it clunky, but the story moves along well enough. I thought the introduction of the sub-plot of a murder was done clumsily.

I have just finished Chapter 14, so Isabel has now married Carlyle. Things can only go from bad to worse now, as Mrs Wood has warned us!
Agreed - the murder sub-plot was abruptly and clumsily introduced, but unlike the sub-plot in Daniel Deronda, Wood will tightly intertwine events and characters between the main and sub-plot lines. In fact, the murder plot line will have major consequences in the main Isabel plot line.
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Old 08-23-2021, 09:16 PM   #29
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Indeed. I am cantering along through the last part of the book now, but won't make any further comment on the plot.
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Old 09-04-2021, 05:33 PM   #30
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I have just finished today, and in the modern vernacular I might say she ‘went there’.

The book begins slowly and prosaically enough for a long while, and certainly much can be guessed far ahead of time. But, wow, Wood doesn’t suffice with simple delicate allusions once things go awry. She revels in giving us the messiest of scenes in all their detailed, melodramatic and even schadenfreude-ian glory.

As I read further and further the phrase ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ kept popping up in my head, lol.
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