Another afternoon when I should be working, and chose to spend it in the company of M E Braddon, instead. If you don’t know M E Braddon, you surely should. One of the most prolific female authors of the 19th century, she published over 80 books, 3 of which are still in print. Sensation Press have done their best to resurrect her thrillers, but there’s still another 77 texts which remain out of the reach of readers, unless you’re a member of the London or similar other university-quality library.
She writes thrillers about bigamous marriages, murders, headstrong female anti-heros (usually with that indication of Victorian female impropriety – red hair), and early female detectives. The daredevil plots, destruction of families, suggestion of sexual impropriety and basic unruly ladies would be enough to make the scripts of “Dynasty” look like “Anne of Green Gables”. I bought a cheap Wordsworth Classics version of it one day in Waterloo and decided to read the first page whilst waiting for a friend outside the Old Vic – I stood there and read the first three chapters and finished it about three days later, having found it utterly un-put-downable. Most of what Braddon does is from the standard sensation thriller genre and borrowed directly from Wilkie Collins – who remains the master at this type of literature (more of him later in this blog, I imagine). Although it is obvious from the books that Braddon was writing and publishing very quickly – flinging out at least two thrillers a year for most of her career, that doesn’t stop it from being pleasurable. In fact, the slight trash element of them is what makes her novels so much fun to read. These novels were written to make the reader’s hair stand on end. If you want to find out how 1860s housewives got their kicks pour a strong tea, recline on the chaise longue and cop a load of Braddon. Free to read on Google Books here: