Skip to main content

Review: East Lynne, by Ellen Wood

If Danielle Steele had lived in the 1860s, East Lynne is probably the type of novel she would have written. Murder, disguise, adultery, divorce, illigitmate children—and oh, yeah, a horde of bats—are at the center of this sensationalist novel that was in and of itself a reflection of the time period in which it was written.

When William Vane, Earl of Mount Severn, dies, destroyed by debt, his daughter, the Lady Isabel, marries a country solicitor, Archibald Carlyle. Later, she abandons her husband and children in favor of a well-known rake, Francis Levison. When he abandons her with her illigitimate child, Lady Isabel becomes, in an ironic twist of fate, governess at East Lynne.

It’s a pretty far-fetched book, all things considering, and the foreshadowing is laid on pretty thick. In one scene, a horde of bats appears at East Lynne one night; next thing you know, the Lady Isabel’s father is dead. The novel is full of people “screaming,” “crying,” “sobbing,” and “raving,” instead of simply “saying” things. It’s pretty much all the melodrama you could ask for, and more.

Ellen Wood wasn’t, by any stretch of the imagination, a good writer—at one point, when Francis Levison sneaks around in the bushes listening in on a conversation between Barbara Hare and Mr. Carlyle, the author describes him as “strolling down like a serpent behind the hedge.” Oh, if only serpents could stroll! There are also minor inconsistences; for example, when Mr. Carlyle marries a second time, his sister moves back to her old home; but later, the author tells her reader that Miss Carlyle vacated her room upstairs in favor of one downstairs. It’s a book that’s passed out of the canon because it’s so quaint and dated. But it seems as though Ellen Wood sure knew how to titillate her Victorian readers.

Comments

Amanda said…
Hahaha...of course there's bats!!! Great review :)
Danielle said…
I think this sounds kind of fun. I have it on my TBR pile as well.
Serena said…
Hello there! I hope your summer is well. I tagged you here:

http://savvyverseandwit.blogspot.com/2008/08/six-quirky-things-about-me.html

Don't feel obligated to participate though.

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is an old dotard, her third locks her up in the house for days and won't let her out; and the last is a fop who a…

Review: This Rough Magic, by Mary Stewart

Pages: 254Original date of publication: 1964My edition: 1964 (William Morrow)Why I decided to read: it was 90 degrees outside at the time and I decided it was time to read another book by a favorite authorHow I acquired my copy: from Susanna Kearsley, December 2009Sometimes, whether or not I decide to read a book depends on the weather. Mary Stewart’s books are best read on either very hot or very cold days; and since it was 90 degrees out one weekend a couple of weeks ago, I decided that this one would be perfect. And it was.This Rough Magic takes its title from The Tempest, a play from which this novel takes off. Lucy Waring is a struggling actress who comes to visit her sister on Corfu. One of her neighbors is a renowned actor who’s taken a bit of a sabbatical and his son, a musician with whom Lucy comes to blows at first. This Rough Magic is vintage Mary Stewart, with a murder or two, a mystery, romance, suspense, and lots of magic thrown in. Lucy is your typical Mary Stewart hero…

Review: Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

Pages: 294
Original date of publication: 1963
My edition: 2010 (Harper Perennial)
Why I decided to read:
How I acquired my copy: Barnes and Noble, Phoenix, January 2011


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of my all-time favorite books and I’ve read it, oh, half a dozen times, so I was interested to see how Joy in the Morning would compare.

Set in the late 1920s, Joy in the Morning begins when Annie, aged 18, comes to a small Midwestern college town where her fiancĂ©e, Carl, is in law school. The novel opens with their marriage in the county courthouse, and follows the couple through their first year or so of marriage. It’s a struggle, because Carl and Annie are basically children themselves, for all the ways in which Carl tries to appear more adult-like.

Annie is endearing; she’s ignorant but a voracious reader, reading everything from Babbitt to War and Peace. Betty Smith’s novels are pretty autobiographical; Joy in the Morning is (unofficially) a kind of sequel to A Tree Grows in Brooklyn—cert…