Aurora Floyd – Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon is the eight novel I have been reading for my Sensation Season. I didn’t notice until today that I am well over half way through and I know I will miss it when it’s done and dusted. It’s actually made me feel much happier that I chose to reduce the amount and have several sensation novels to read in the future other wise I would feel quite bereft. It’s been a season of much Wilkie Collins, who has fared better and better officially becoming one of my favourite authors. Mary Elizabeth Braddon wrote another of my favourite books of all time; will Braddon become one of my favourite authors after reading another of her novels?

Aurora Floyd confused me slightly at the start until I realised the opening chapter wasn’t actually about our heroine, though whether that’s a justifiable label for her is debatable during the book, and is in fact about her mother. Once the tale of Aurora herself starts we head into sensation territory with a big secret that Aurora carries.

Now though the blurb on the back of the book gives everything away (why do publishers do this), I don’t want to. Suffice to say that once happily married, after quite a turbulent set of proposals and suitors, the past comes back to haunt Aurora as she nestles happily married to John Mellish, a character I adored, and becomes a lady of the country. What the blurb doesn’t give away is though the secret becomes revealed a murder takes place leaving a wonderful whodunit suddenly and the whole feel of the book changes once more. I am saying no more but its brilliantly written and amateur detectives amongst you will revel in it like I did.

I will admit that I did struggle with this book to start of. Whilst by the end I understood the need for Aurora’s heritage to be shown, at the beginning it seemed an irrelevant chapter and I wont lie it did throw me into a small confusion, in fact the first few chapters did as everything gets set up very quickly before a hundred and fifty pages of gentle hinting and romantic interludes which didn’t thrill me. It was the last 170 pages or so that made the wait worthwhile as the twists and turns I wasn’t expecting suddenly came to light and then I could barely put the book down.

I will also admit that the plot in many ways isn’t too differential from what you may have already read in Braddon’s earlier sensation classic Lady Audley’s Secret although this novel has more of a whodunit feel in many ways. I do think that Braddon’s writing improved with this novel, I didn’t think it was bad before as you know I loved it, but the characters seemed to walk off the page that much more with this one. The evilness of Mrs Powell and Steven ‘Softy’ Hargreaves was wonderful and the fact she actually went into their heads as well as Aurora’s made for fascinating reading and touched on social stigmas too.

Reading this back I sound like I am disappointed with this book and that’s not the case. I don’t think it packs the punch that Lady Audley’s Secret did as after a flurried start it goes very calm before the climatic ending which could put people off. I wavered a few times in the middle and had some ‘oh this is hard work’ moments but never enough to give up reading to the end and thank goodness for that. It just goes to show how and ending or the last 100 or so pages can utterly change your opinion of a book and I am thoroughly glad I persevered. I am looking forward to reading more Braddon with ‘The Doctor’s Wife’ in a few weeks time, I must read Madame Bovary first though as apparently there are parallels! Next week it is the infamous Wilkie Collins classic, and one of my favourite novels, ‘The Woman in White’.


Filed under Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Oxford University Press, Review, Sensation Novels

10 responses to “Aurora Floyd – Mary Elizabeth Braddon

  1. This sounds really good, although I’d like to read Lady Audley’s Secret first. I loved Woman in White, and am looking forward to reading your and everyone else’s thoughts!!

    • The Woman in White, from what I remember of the first read of it, in some ways is still to me the utmost of sensation novels though all the reads so far have had a good crack at it.

      However I have yet to read East Lynne by Ellen Wood (who I now will see weekly at Highgate though no one points her out anymore) which is supposed to be the mother of all sensation novels.

  2. fleurfisher

    It is a long time since I read Lady Audley’s Secret and Auroroa Floyd. I loved both and really must find time to reread before too long. I have The Doctor’s Wife waiting for a first read, so I’ll be curious to real your thoughts on that one.

  3. Hi, Simon! This is another book that I should get, as, like you, I’m into sensation fiction as of the moment. Thanks for the heads up on the blurb too.

    I’ve been trying very hard to get my book club tackle a sensational read next year. So far, not many of them are into it.

    • I would say with all sensation novels skip the blurb as honestly most of them give the game away. It seems a bit silly really as thats partly why you are reading the book in the first place!

  4. “Now though the blurb on the back of the book gives everything away (why do publishers do this), I don’t want to.”

    Really, why do publishers do this? I know they want to sell books, but why must they ruin plot details for us?

    I really enjoyed Lady Audley’s Secret, so I should add this one to my to-read list!

    • You should add this one indeed.

      I don’t know who at the publishers is in charge of blurbs, I shall make an effort to find out though dont you worry! Ha! I guess they want to sell it, though they should hint not fully divulge.

  5. I think I would have liked Aurora Floyd better if I had not read Lady Audley’s Secret first. It was just too similar but not as “sensational”.

    • Hmmm I like both, I think like you I loved ladu Audley Secret because it was such a new read and plot. In fact even second time round it did the same. I liked the characters in this one much more though, especially the devious ones.

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