The Dead Secret – Wilkie Collins

So now it is time for me to divulge all of my thoughts on the latest Sensation Sunday read. I was tempted to call this post ‘a sensationally sick Sunday’ as I have been hit by some bug that’s made me feel unbelievably tired, throaty and nauseous hence why the post is a bit late… have been doing a lot of Sunday snoozing! Something must be going around, though I do find it most unfair that it has chosen a time when I am relaxing with a few weeks off to make me feel so rubbish. Hopefully is just a twenty four hour thing and will be back in my stride tomorrow. I have noticed though that since I had swine flu my immune system has been really poor. Anyway, enough about me lets move onto more about my latest foray into another fictional world of Wilkie Collins.

The Dead Secret is one of the Wilkie Collins novels that I have been looking forward to the most and not just because of the wonderful title. I have been really looking forward to it because people in the know, from many Wilkie Collins sites, say that this book is an incredibly important book in his career as it was the first book published for the purpose of serialisation and was in many ways the book that influenced his style in the future on the following novel he wrote which happens to be the legendary ‘Woman in White’ which is also one of my very favourite books. Also one of the main characters, a tragic servant figure, in this book then appears in ‘The Moonstone’. This is why I have started to do my research on books as I read them as its fascinating but what of the actual plot and book itself.

It is a scene on a death bed that aptly opens this novel as Mrs Treverton dictates her own (you guessed it) deadly secret onto her maid whom she also implicates in whatever the secret may be. I would tell you all but then what would be the point of the book as though in typical Wilkie style you are given some big clues, and plenty of red herrings, nothing is fully revealed until much later on or why would anyone read it? The maid against her mistresses’ wishes does not pass on the secret to Mr Treverton instead hiding it in the disused part of the Treverton’s home, the dark, wonderfully rambling and mysterious Porthgenna Tower in the knowledge no one will find it.

Fifteen years later though Porthgenna Tower has been sold on Mrs Treverton’s daughter Rosamond becomes the new mistress. On her way back to become mistress of her childhood home fate intervenes, through Rosamond’s giving birth, and a last minute nurse imparts the message ‘when you go to Porthgenna, keep out of the Myrtle Room’. Naturally and given to the fact that Rosamond is a wonderfully flighty yet headstrong character she resolves that that is the very thing she will do, but what is The Dead Secret she will uncover?

How Wilkie Collins does all this in just over 350 pages (one of his shortest novels) is quite amazing. This book is filled with mystery from the start and shows the true meaning of ‘page turning’ and cliff-hanger chapter endings which Collins became so famous for. I was utterly gripped from the gothic death bed opening scene until the final word of the last chapter. What this book also has in abundance, which so far in the sensation season I hadn’t noticed so strongly, is quirky and wonderful characters which even if are only used for a chapter are drawn in such depth you would read about every single one. Be they the leads character such as Rosamond or the hilarious and slightly irritating hypochondriac and whittler Mr Phippen, the sneaky deviousness of Mr Shrowl, the indignant Mrs Norbury or the ever happy Miss Sturch. This book has everything and I think shows exactly why Wilkie Collins not only became one of the great and most popular writers of his time and over 100 years on has become one of my most favoured writers. A must read if ever there was one.  

The next Sensation Season read is Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, which I am already looking forward to, and will be next Sunday. I am now off to find some comfort reading though what my exact ‘comfort reading’ is I am never quite sure. What’s the latest sensation book you have read, will you be adding this to the TBR? I do hope so.


Filed under Books of 2009, Oxford University Press, Review, Sensation Novels, Wilkie Collins

14 responses to “The Dead Secret – Wilkie Collins

  1. I suspect I have that same bug! I haven’t been able to meet my new baby cousin due to the danger of passing it on :(. I hope we both feel less poorly tomorrow.

    Another Collins for the wishlist!

    • I think Collins could be sneaking up on Daphne as my favourite author of all time which is interesting, I wonder if Daphne was a fan and if he bore any influence on her, there is another question I would ask her if she was alive and prepared to meet for afternoon tea.

      Hope your feeling better? I did and now feel lousy again.

  2. I hope you guys keep your bugs over the ocean! I am yet to read any Wilkie Collins – where do you think I should start??

    • Oooooooh thats a tough one Karen, I would actually say this one, not just because its the most recent one that I have read, This seems to be the book, it was his fourth, where he really finds his feet and uses alot of this novel and extends various plots, red herrings, characters etc for later works.

  3. I will definitely be getting this one soon even though I have 3 or 4 other Collins waiting here to be read. I need some exciting characters right now!
    I hope you are well again soon.

    • I am feeling a fair bit better today actually which is good as if you are ill you cant have a massage and I booked mine ages ago!

      This is a good place to start as its one of his best but not the best so after this you still have even better to come.

  4. I read this fairly recently and enjoyed it, though not as much as other WCs I have read. I guessed the secret pretty early on, which I thought was a bit of a shame. He’s always a good read, though. Hope you feel better soon.

    • I thought I might know the secret but then there were a few red herrings and grey area’s that meant I guessed wrongly.

      I really liked this though I do agree books like Armadale and The Woman in White shine brighter than this, then again this book was the one that sort of set the others rolling.

  5. I have only read The woman in white by Wilkie Colins, and I really enjoyed it, I will definitely be reading more books by Wilkie Colins.

  6. novelinsights

    Oh sweetie! Hope you are feeling better by now. Glad Wilkie kept you company xxx

  7. Hi, Simon! I just realized that we’ve been reading loads of Wilkie Collins lately! I read The Moonstone when I was 13 I think, so I may have to reread it soon since I probably didn’t catch all the details. After reading The Woman in White, which is my favorite read for the year, I decided to read as many of Collins’s novels as I can. I’m reading his novellas (Miss or Mrs, The Haunted Hotel, and Guilty River) and I’m enjoying them.

    I will definitely add The Dead Secret to my TBR pile.

  8. I read this one earlier this year and enjoyed it as well. It’s hard not to like a book by Wilkie Collins. My favorite is Armadale–not sure if you’ll be reading that one (need to scroll through your posts), but it’s well worth your time if you do!

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