Tag Archives: Ellen Wood

East Lynne – Ellen Wood

I mentioned the other day that out of all the sensation season reading material so far Ellen Wood’s (or Mrs Henry Wood) ‘East Lynne’ has been by far the most complex and difficult to get through. I want to make it clear that I don’t mean that in a bad way. In fact the main reason it’s quite a book to get through is because of a whole host of characters (initially a village full) and a whole host of plots. This isn’t for those of you who are looking for a throw away sensational read you have to dive in and just go for it. Once you have read the final page though you will be left in no doubt that this is a masterpiece and may, as many say, be the mother of all sensation novels.

East Lynne is a grand old house not to far from the village of West Lynne, you will learn to love the village and all of its wonderful (even if some are downright evil) characters. From the first chapter we are introduced to the main character of the book Isabel Vane or as the first chapter is called ‘The Lady Isabel’ who lives in East Lynne with her father not knowing he has sold the house to local solicitor Archibald Carlyle. We join them as they first meet and naturally Carlyle falls in love with her one site, as one must this is after all a sensation novel.

The very same night Lady Isabel meets Captain Francis Levison a charming man who she instantly falls in love with though he proves a real rogue. Isabel’s father dies shortly after and Isabel finds herself left with a not so nice member of the family before accepting Archibald Carlyle’s hand in marriage admitting to him she doesn’t love him but one day she may. Throw in a possessive half sister, the wonderfully named Cornelia Carlyle, a local girl Barbara Hare who is clearly in love with Archibald and keeps meeting him in secret (though its actually because her brother is wanted for a murder he didn’t commit – see lots of stray storylines) send the delicate Isabel to France for respite where she meets Captain Levison again and you have the perfect recipe for one hell of a sensational novel… and that is not even half of the story. I can’t give away anymore and no one should as it would spoil such a wonderful, wonderful book.

The faults that I have seen reported in other thoughts on this book are that it’s too far fetched and yes in a way the plot is quite implausible… but this is sensation fiction (and fiction in general does this Nineteen Eighty-Four anyone?) and that in part is what its about. Though, if you research it, actually at the time divorce was becoming available in society. This book does look at the social history of the time along with the sanctity of ‘family’ in that period as step mothers who were from second marriages, not from the death of the first wife but of divorce instead, started to appear more things for women were changing again as naturally divorces were always in favour of the male party.

Enough of the social history and back to the book… I just thought the characters were wonderful. I loved the delicate, often flighty and slightly idiotic Isabel. She isn’t calculating just rash and fanciful and in a way her story is quite a tragic one and shows the lengths some people could go to for family, I can’t give anything more away than that. I though the bubbly Barbara Hare was a very interesting character with hidden depths. Naturally it was for me the icy, sister in law spinster Cornelia Carlyle who just for me walked off every page of the book as if she was in the room filling it with her (often wrong or prejudiced) opinions and thoughts. A magnificent character, in fact a magnificent set of characters. Throw in all of the plots, back stories and twists and I was left quite breathless by its brilliance.

This book has not only made me want to read everything that Ellen Wood (or Mrs Henry Wood) has ever written it has in many ways opened me up more to the idea of reading many more books that have such a grand scale and are so filled with several plots and characters which is giving me hope for reading Dickens in the future. I can certainly see why everyone at the time bought this book in their droves; it’s just a shame that they don’t do that now. I am hoping this will help, I will make sure I pop and say thank you to Ellen Wood every time I pass her at Highgate, she deserves more recognition.

If you are wondering why I haven’t used the most famous quote in the book, and it is very famous, it’s because it gives away quite a lot when you know some of the plot, so don’t go searching for it. So who else has read this? If you haven’t why on earth not you must run out and get it now.

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Filed under Books of 2009, Ellen Wood, Mrs Henry Wood, Oxford University Press, Review, Sensation Novels

Another Sensational Shuffle

You may have noticed that yesterday I didn’t do a Sensation Sunday as part of the Sensation Season. Well blame The Converted One! It’s not as dramatic as it sounds but with the big ‘three o’ for The Converted One being today the weekend was a surprise party and who knew just how much time and cunning that would take organising. Fortunately it all went fabulously and I wasn’t killed for organising something that The Converted One didn’t initially want to celebrate. So oddly enough book reading went a little out the window.

Add to this the fact that East Lynne is utterly, utterly marvellous it does also have the whole of West Lynne village in it’s cast and about twelve plots going all at once and I just couldn’t read it as quickly as I thought I would be able to. I also didn’t want to rush something I am enjoying so much and so have been reading it as the people in the late 1800′s would and have been serialising the amount I read each day and its delightful. I now know every character much better and their motives and plots are much more apparent. I am not saying you can’t read it any other way, nor am I saying I should have read the previous sensation novels this way, I am just using my circumstances to try something a bit different. I also don’t want to stop enjoying one of my favourite forms of fiction and have even postponed another sensation novel until sometime in 2010.

The fact that I pass Ellen Wood, or Mrs Henry Wood, everytime I am in Highgate (so once a week or every other week) has instilled the thought that I must respect this book even more. It seems to me that she is a much forgotten author and though having scouted on certain sites have seen there are a lot more of her works out there they arent as available as ‘East Lynne’ which in its own way is a forgotten classic. So when you are next in Highgate do ask the guides (unless its me) to point her out as I think she should get much more attention than she does… in so many ways.

East Lynne will be up for discussion next Sunday when Granny Savidge Reads will also be in town. So much to look forward to at the weekend already, makes Monday so easier. Well that and the fact have today off for celebrating someone’s 30th – oh am not supposed to have mentioned that am I?!?

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Sensational September… And A Sensational Season?

So though we are actually nine days into September now I am finally launching ‘Sensational September’ (apologies for the lateness being abroad and the Man Booker read-a-thon pushed things back a bit) a theme for the blog that I came up with a while ago. Now if you are thinking “what on earth is Simon on about” then hereis the definition of a Sensation Novel. Some of these books, such as Wilkie Collins ‘The Woman in White’ and Mary Elizabeth Braddon’s ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ as well as books that they have inspired such as Jane Harris’ ‘The Observations’ and Susan Hill’s ‘The Woman In Black’ are some of my favourite books and the late Victorian era is one of my favourite in history so how could I not love them all, and well why not try? I have been wanting to read more classics and I think these are great classics that sometimes get overlooked.

Penguin had already kindly sent me a selection of the Wilkie Collins they print and a lovely new copy of Lady Audley’s Secret, when I came back from holiday I discovered this had been delivered (well dumped by Royal Mail way before I left into the shop next door – who thankfully are very honest)…

A Promising Parcel

Inside I could see a hint of something sensational peering out at me through the paper…

A Sensational Find Inside

And then it was like all my Christmases had come at once. Thanks to the lovely people at Oxford University Press who saw my previous post and had themselves wanted to get involved in some way.

More Sensation Novels Than a Man Can Handle

And so had sent me some Wilkie Collins (Basil, The Dead Secret, Man & Wife, Poor Miss Finch, Hide & Seek) and more Mary Elizabeth Braddon (The Doctors Wife, Aurora Floyd) and what is considered the mother of all sensation novels ‘East Lynne’ by Ellen Wood.

Now that brings my total of Sensation Novels upto a total of 14 (I bought No Name myself a few weeks ago as I just couldn’t not) and thats not including some of the other fiction from the era (‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde) up until the present day (Fingersmith by Sarah Waters, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale) that were inspired by these novels. I hadn’t counted on just how huge the sensation novels are, most weighing in at 500-600 pages+ which will make great reading, but reading all that in a month… might be a slight push.

So I am now working on a Sensational Schedule so that should you want to join in, and I so, so, so hope you do, then you can. I am thinking of doing the big reads over weekends on Sensational Sundays very like when I tried to do the Sabidge Reads Big Weekenders, and then a smaller one midweek on Wednesday, though you can’t make a good alliteration based title out of that, ha! Mind you thats only a few weekends, maybe I should make Autumn a Sensational Season? I will pop the schedule on the blog today… I may make a new page actually! Can you tell all the excitement has thrown me?

So will you be joining in? Are you a fan of Sensation Fiction? Have you not read any but are intrigued? Which modern day books do you think have a sensational feel about them or have possibly been inspired by them? Which sensation novels should I simply not miss? All your thoughts as ever very, very welcomed! Am now off to delve back into Wilkie Collins ‘The Haunted Hotel’ which is my first read of the theme and already I am loving, and to mull over just which Sensation books to read when?

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A Few More Additions & Double Trouble

I am not sure the postman was a fan of me this week, but then again with all the postal strikes of late I dont think that I am really a fan of the postmen. Who do they keep on striking when its not getting them anything, well all its getting is the british public a bit narked off and really you would think they would want us onside. In the current climate at least they have jobs… any way off my Savidge Soapbox and back to books!

Yes its that time again when I come to share with you the latest arrivals at Savidge Reads Towers (which the postman has begrudged delivering) and ask you what you have read from whats arrived and what you want to read…the latter in particular today you may want to think about as it may prove relevant further in the blog. Anyways the first few arrivals have been  from the lovely people at Oxford University Press for my ‘Sensational September’ read-a-thon which I would love for you to join in on if you would like. So the ones that have arrived so far (more are on the way apparently) are…

Some Sensational Stuff

  • No Name by Wilkie Collins, which I know nothing about which in a strange way suits the title of the novel.
  • The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins, this is supposed to be one of his shortest Sensation Novels and yet one of the ones which packs the biggest punch which after reading The Woman in White (which I am going to re-read) I would be mighty impressed if it could beat.
  • East Lynne by Ellen Wood, sensation fiction fans claim this is the mother of all sensation novels and there for maybe where I start, or should this be where I finish? This one sold hundreds towards the end of the 1860′s and is most well known for its implausible plot – sounds a hoot!

Next is a mixture of stuff from various publishers and other sources. The week before last saw the author Chris Ewan contact me )my Gran was here she found it all very exciting) after seeing me comment on Random Jottings post about his books and offered to send me the latest not minding “if you don’y blog about it if you dont like it” which was a really refreshing view, I have had pushy authors in the past who I shall not name and shame, its simply suffice to say their books have never featured on the site.  Anyway I bought the first one ‘A Good Theifs Guide To Amsterdam’ as I have to read series in order, everything else has popped through the Savidge Reads letter box from various lovely people.

New Random Arrivals

  • An Expert in Murder by Nicola Upson, I have lost count how many times I have seen praise in the blogging world for this novel and so its been on my hitlist a while. Very excited.
  • A Good Thief’s Guide To Amsterdam by Chris Ewan, as mentioned above.
  • A Good Thief’s Guide To Paris by Chris Ewan, again as mentioned above. Oh but the premise is that its about a crime author who is also a thief. Read the post by Random Jottings for a better summary.
  • Ekaterinburg by Helen Rapport, I have had this one the wish list for ages as people were raving about this non-fiction piece about the Romanov’s and the last thirteen days before their massacre in 1918. This looks to be a non fiction masterpiece and I said I would read much more non fiction this year.
  • Voice Over by Celine Curiol, which is next months Book Group Book. You can go on that page to read more about it and if you want to attend do contact me. Sounds like a very exciting debut from this french author I wouldnt have read if it hadn’t been put forward this month.
  • Sunset Oasis by Bahaa Taher, I knew nothing of this book it was a suprise in the post, I do adore the cover though. It’s based in Egypt which is a country I haven’t read many novels set in and looks like its quite an intriguing plot about relations between Britain and Egypt and the political climate. I may have got that all wrong.
  • Angel With Two Faces by Nicola Upson, the sequel to An Expert in Murder… already, very exciting.
  • Conspirator: Lenin in Exhile by Helen Rappaport, the latest of her non fiction and more about Russia andof course Lenin. Ever since reading Child 44 I have wanted to find more out about Russia and it seems over the next few months I will get my chance.

Finally (‘at last’ I hear you cry) there have been five or ten other arrivals depending how you look at it…

Doubled Up

  • True Murder by Yaba Badoe, I have been picking up and putting this down for about three weeks at Waterstones as its one of thier books of the month. Two children find a skeleton in their attic at boarding school and decide to play detective, though what if the killer is still there and wants to keep certain dark secrets buried? Sounds reallt, really good and quite me.
  • Noah’s Compass by Anne Tyler, the latest Tyler novel… erm… need I say more?
  • The Flying Troutmans by Miriam Toews, this was long listed for the Orange prize earlier in the year. I like the Orange lists and this is one I didn’t get to read but now its out in paper back I can.
  • A Story of Marriage by Andrew Sean Greer, the tale of a happy marriage that one the arrival of a knock at the door changes for ever, another book that sounds very me.
  • The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty by Sebastian Barry, now if any of you have read and loved ‘The Secret Scripture’ then you might remember the brief arrival of the character Eneas in the narrator Roseanne’s tale, now prior to The Secret Scripture the author Sebastian Barry has already written Eneas’ story, am looking forward to this one a lot too.

As you may have noticed I got doubles of these and so, yes thats right, you can expect some giveaways in the fortchcoming weeks, so keep your eyes peeled! I just need to work out if I should give them away one by one or in a big parcel or two parcels? Hmmm… I shall mull it over by the Lido today in the sun, where I am going to be getting into the world of The Tudors and Cromwell. More on that later in the week.

Have you read any of the books above? What are the latest books you have bought, been given, etc? What are you reading now and whats top of your TBR and wish lists?

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Sensational September

Firstly sorry for such a late blog, it seems I have some kind of evil food poisoning and have been up half the night and then finally getting to sleep about 7am so have not long got up. Well I say got up, I think today is going to be a day in bed with books to be honest, I can’t really see me going anywhere. Anyway for quite a while now I have been hinting to you all that I am doing a themed month in September. Apart from obviously devouring the Man Booker long list over the last few weeks and will continue to in the following weeks, I haven’t really done a themed blog or themed month on the blog so I thought that it was time for a change.

What is the theme? Well I have decided to make September ‘Sensation September’ yes I am going to be reading the fabulous sensation novels of the late 1800′s for a whole month. Now for those of you who might be thinking ‘what the heck is a sensation novel?’ this should sum it up…

Typically the sensation novel focused on shocking subject matter including adultery, theft, kidnapping, insanity, bigamy, forgery, seduction and murder. It distinguished itself from other contemporary genres, including the Gothic novel, by setting these themes in ordinary, familiar and often domestic settings, thereby undermining the common Victorian-era assumption that sensational events were something foreign and divorced from comfortable middle-class life. When sensation novels burst upon a quiescent England these novels became immediate best sellers, surpassing all previous book sales records. However, high brow critics writing in academic journals of the day decried the phenomenon and criticized its practitioners (and readers) in the harshest terms. The added noriety derived from reading the novels probably served only to contribute to their popularity.”

Penguin Wilkie Collins Collection

The lovely people at Penguin have sent me all the Wilkie Collins that they publish (see above) which include “The Haunted Hotel”, “The Moonstone”, “Armadale”, “The Law and the Lady” and “The Woman in White” the latter of which is one of my favourite all time books. Plus for some reason not pictured one of my favourite novels ‘Lady Audley’s Secret’ by Mary Elizabeth Braddon. If that wasn’t enough the lovely people at Oxford University Press are sending me another ten or so which I will report back on but include the mother of all sensation novels ‘East Lynne’ by Ellen Wood. I am really excited about these as its perfect for when the nights start to draw in and you want to curl up with a good book.

I also thought it would be nice to mix these up with books that have been inspired by the sensation novel. Or in the case of Kate Summerscale’s non-fiction marvel ‘The Suspicions of Mr Whicher’ a book about the murder case that started all of the sensation novels off. In terms of modern books that are based around sensation novels I am thinking of ‘The Observations’ by Jane Harris, ‘Fingersmith’ by Sarah Waters and a few more.

Who has already dabbled in the sensation novel, if so which ones have you read and which ones did you enjoy? Who has never heard of the sensation novel and is now looking forward to some high Victorian melodrama? So who is up for joining me in a sensational read-a-long?

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