Sunday, December 6, 2009

"In an easy-chair of the spacious and handsome library of his town-house, sat William, Earl of Mount Severn."

I had heard of Ellen Wood (a.k.a. Mrs. Henry Wood) and her novel East Lynne but it took the prompting of Simon of Savidge Reads and his Sensational Sundays to get me to commit to reading it this fall. Oh, how perfect this book was! I have been in a bit of a reading funk lately -- reading too many books that I didn't love and in some cases barely even liked. But then East Lynne came into my life and reminded me that I love sensational Victorian novels!

East Lynne is the name of the estate just outside the town of West Lynne -- some miles from London. It is one of a few properties owned by Lord Mount Severn and one he must part with as he has run through all of his funds and needs the ready cash. He makes the sale in complete secrecy, even keeping his teenage daughter in the dark as to his financial woes. He sells the home to a respectable attorney, Archibald Carlyle, from West Lynne. Lord Mount Severn and his daughter, Lady Isabel Vane, return for a visit and Carlyle, in his generosity, allows them to stay at East Lynne to continue the protective secrecy of their agreement. Unfortunately, while they are there, Lord Mount Severn's gout gets the best of him and he dies, leaving his beautiful and gentle daughter with not a cent to her name. Carlyle is thoughtful enough to send her off with one hundred pounds to live with her uncle, the new Lord Mount Severn, and his dreadful wife. From this point on, Lady Isabel is ruled by inexperience and makes many decisions -- some that are fortunately in her best interests and others that are woefully bad.

Simon frequently called East Lynne "the mother of all sensation novels" and I will only dispute that to suggest that it is perhaps tied in that distinction by Wilkie Collins' Armadale. Any story with villains so despicable that it turns your stomach in knots and tragedies so painful that they bring tears to your eyes is a satisfying sensational read. This book is already on my "must read again" list and I hope that any of you who love Victorian novels will pick this one up.

Rediscovering the joy in reading,

Support our site and buy East Lynne on Amazon or find it at your local library. We bought our own copy.


  1. I am soooo pleased that you loved this. I would agree that it probably ties with Armadale though I think East Lynne deserves much, much, much more recognition than it has had. Armadale seems to be getting it at last. I will definately read this again for next years Sensation Season. Thank you so much for joining in.

  2. After reading you and Simon on this I must get a copy. Sounds great for the post-Christmas energy slump.

  3. Ranking this up there with Armadale is enough for me. Looks like another one for my list!

  4. Simon - Absolutely! When I finally make it out to the U.K., I will visit Ellen Wood and give her my regards!

    Jux - It was a great pick-me-up and I will certainly read it again at some point!

    Teresa - I love the suspense and the drama of these books. They are great at a time when I need some distraction.

  5. I know what you mean when you feel like you've lost your joy in reading! I'm glad you found it again! I've been treating myself to a month of just reading for me ... authors I want to read and pure fun. It has been a blast!

  6. Thanks for the recommendation. I will look out for this one. It sounds interesting.

  7. Jenners - I am doing some challenges in the new year that force me to spend time reading books that I love. How sad that I need to force it these days though!

    Jemima - I hope you get to it at some point!