Lady Audley’s Super Secret Readalong, Final Installment: In which everyone needs to shut up

God, Lady Audley folds like a tailgate chair once Robert turns out to be alive. She cannot shut up with the confessions. If it were me I’d have denied everything, and I’d have gone back to my husband to emphasize Robert’s insanity. Once Robert’s committed to an insane asylum he can’t gather witnesses, can he? The only obstacle I see is Phoebe and Luke, and if Lady Audley just smothered Luke real quick (he’s all burned; he can’t fight her), Phoebe could live her life in freedom. PHOEBE!

Then Sir Michael offers to kill Robert, which Lucy doesn’t take him up on (fair enough); he tells her to tell him that Robert’s crazy, which Lucy also doesn’t take him up on, and that is nuts. Seriously, Lucy. You have laid so much unsubtle groundwork and now you’re just going to walk away? What is this? I don’t know what he’s talking about! My maid will swear that she was with me in my bedroom until very late with a bad headache! Fetch her here and I’ll ask her! How could he accuse me of such a thing?

Also, like, again, I think Lady Audley should really emphasize that she thought George was dead on account of THAT HE ABANDONED HER. George can’t just wander off whenever he feels like it and be like “Talk in a few years when I’m rich!” That is not an acceptable marital strategy! Poor old Lady Audley just had the misfortune to be born before all the marriage reform laws started kicking into high gear.

Another person who needs to shut up: Robert.

I fear that, even sitting by that desolate hearth, and beneath the roof whose noble was an exile from his own house, Robert Audley was weak enough to think of these things—weak enough to let his fancy wander away to the dismal fir-trees under the cold March sky, and the dark-brown eyes that were so like the eyes of his lost friend.


But I’m glad that Lady Audley makes Robert listen to the story of that time that she killed George. I read that story twice. It’s not that I think Lady Audley was right to kill George, but I have just come to hate Robert so much that any suffering for Robert makes me happy.

Another way that Robert is awful is this contemplation of whether he should tell Clara that George is dead:

How many lies he should have to tell, or how much equivocation he must use in order to keep the truth from her? Yet would there be any mercy in telling that horrible story, the knowledge of which must cast a blight upon her youth, and blot out every hope she had even secretly cherished?

Remember at the beginning when Robert didn’t care about anything and we all liked him? I wish we had not had to discover that Robert is just the worst. I wish Robert would fall in a well. I wish Clara would push Robert in a well. I wish that Clara would find out George was dead, ask Robert why he didn’t tell her, receive this line of bullshit from Robert, and then tell him it’s bullshit and push him down a well. And then go off to the Continent.

Doesn’t matter, though. Ultimately these feelings were all pushed out of my brain. The final revelation is too much for me. It did me in at last. I had to lie down on the floor and scream with laughter. George is legitimately not down a well dead forever; he’s legitimately in Australia. Well, friends, I did not see that coming, and I am not too happy about it. And then wait, the book just ends? That’s the end? George is alive, the end?

Nobody dies?

Zero people die? Except I guess Luke, and he doesn’t even die from the fire? WHAT KIND OF SENSATION NOVEL IS THIS?

I have to say, I was much more enamored of y’all in this readalong than I was enamored of the book. The thing at the end where George isn’t dead after all was a legitimate surprise, but everything else was kinda dumb and predictable, and it’s stupid to have Lady Audley’s other big secret to be that her mother was crazy, when that secret doesn’t go anywhere. And also, I wanted George to be dead. It was funnier when George was dead.

  • Your reviews sound more entertaining than the novel! I’m almost tempted to read it accompanied by referrals to your posts!

  • I hate Robert toooooo! I just shook my head over his contemplating not telling Clara. Yep, just let her wonder what happened to her brother and sit there knowing what’s what. Jerk.

    I love that we both think Lady Audley needed to put a man in the madhouse. She was so good at lying. Why didn’t she keep lying?

  • aliceburton

    I get it, man. I do. And everyone in this book is an idiot. But! It had some fun cultural references and Robert was funny early on. But just….no, MEB. No.

  • Man, I really thought Rob would turn out to be awesome in this book. Why’d she have to go ruin that?

    I could not stop laughing when it turned out that nope, George isn’t dead. He’s fine. Still being all moody, as is his way. Maybe we liked Rob so much in the beginning because we had George to compare him to and George is the worst. So Rob looked better.

  • Jenny

    Wow! You really *didn’t* like this book! I liked Robert all the way through it — Robert, the Closeted Apathetic Detective Who Can’t Be Bothered — and I wanted to see a lot more of Clara, preferably in clothes she picked out herself. I don’t get the “just…no” reactions. Just no what? No Australia? Australia is dangerous and exotic! Dingoes and criminals and so forth!

    The ending is a cop-out, mostly because it says that female self-assertion and scheming is actually a form of insanity, when MEB was arguing all along that it wasn’t. But otherwise it had a satisfactory amount of feloniousness for me. It ain’t Collins, but you can’t have psychic phenomena and twins and mesmerism and curses and Orientalism in EVERY sensation novel.

    • This comments wins all the points. Robert was basically Franklin from The Moonstone only lazier, and I liked him. I think he was just a nice person who wanted to do the right thing so everyone would be okay in the end. Even Lady Audley, contextually speaking, who didn’t have to go to court or jail or to a horrible institution, but at least got to shack up in a relatively comfortable one in Europe. Y’know, considering she tried to kill two people and actually managed to indirectly kill a third, even if he was a colossal knob. Yay Robert and his gloriously cheesy happy ending!

  • I am now totally desperate for you to read The Doctor’s Wife. Now THAT is sensational. I couldn’t have loved this readalong more than if I had reread it with you. Your posts crack me up!

    • Katy

      I am just about to read this! So glad it is recommended. My favorite M.E. Braddon so far is The Trail of the Serpent.

  • I’ve read arguments that Lady Audley’s secret is that she’s not insane. She gets away with attempted murder and is shut up in a fairly comfortable house rather than hung or put in a nastier jail.

    Yes, murder probably would’ve been more entertaining, but what can you do?

  • I love everything about this post so, so much. The title. The desire for SOMEBODY to have died. The loathing of Later Robert. The What The Actual Fuck Though That’s Really The Secret?

    I feel ALL these feels with you.

  • Lady Audley is totes not *actually* insane and got off relatively easy in the end. I second that comment above.

    I don’t hate Robert. But I liked him a lot better when he was pretending to go hunting and ice-skating badly and being oblivious to Alicia’s advances. Now he’s, what, being a REAL lawyer? No.

  • I want in on the next readalong!

  • I reeally want another Victorian sensation novel readalong now. You have hooked me and I need a fix.