YOU GUIIIIIISE I FINISHED A BOOK! *high-fives everyone within fiving distance* Trashy Victorian novels, you are my only.
So. Lady Audley, formerly A Poor Governess (aren’t they all), has a Secret, and you will figure out at least part of it because SEEMINGLY UNRELATEDLY George Tallboys returns from Australia to hear that his much-beloved wife is dead and buried and you are not an idiot, you have read Victorian novels before. But the particular ins and outs of this secret you will maybe not guess.
Lazy, amiable Robert Audley certainly doesn’t guess them, but when his bosom friend George Tallboys goes TRAGICALLY MISSING Robert has some sleuthing to do. Nothing draws a young man out of himself like a good sleuthing (not a euphemism but ALSO TRUE IF READ AS A EUPHEMISM! Just not for this book).
And I don’t know if it’s my fondness for Victorian WIT or if it’s a literary carryover of whatever that factor is that makes everything British people say eleventy times more hilarious, but when Robert, musing on the long odds of finding a good marriage mate, asks ‘Who shall decide from the first aspect of the slimy creature, which is to be the one eel out of the colossal bag of snakes?’ I am like LOLWHAT? I am guessing that the well-suited spouse is the eel…
There will be those who disagree, but Victorian novels are perfect for my post-partum brain because people are always saying things like, I will leave these incidental letters out because they may be useful in future, and you are like, Note: remember these letters. Or bottles are labelled ‘Opium – poison’ just in case you’ve forgotten how opium rolls. And though occasionally a trope will teeter on the edge of being overthrown, and a WOMAN will be all, Perhaps I shall unjustly commit this MAN to a madhouse, and your Inner Subverter is like, *baited breath,* ultimately you know that tradition will win out, and that if anyone is going to the madhouse it’ll be the one with the ladyparts. And while somehow in modern novels I’m like, Predictability, bleugh! in VicFic I am very like Hullo, old tropes. Let us have tea.
They are also plotty. When they suggest that someone is about to be burnt alive in their bed, there is usually an ATTEMPT made to lock them in their bedrooms and set fire to the house (yet despite my love of Books Where People Actually Die, the attempt is rarely successful. Fictional Victorians only murder people Accidentally, Indirectly Via Societal Neglect, or Offstage With Poison Or Maybe Hired Goons).
There was a particularly alarming moment when, with thirty-odd pages to go, it looked like the only action remaining was to genteely retire the guilty parties to the correctional facility of choice and then resolve an affection or two. But NAY, there were MOAR REVELATIONS. Which, phew, because not even for YOU, Victorian Novel, will I read thirty pages of denouement.
A book! I have read one!
I don’t even…like…eight caterpillars, or whatever. Now on to something with wizards in it, maybe.