Read by Rachel Atkins
Ellen Wood’s sensation novel of 1861 found immediate popularity on its first publication. Its themes of infidelity and double identity attracted a wide range of readers, from the Prince of Wales to Joseph Conrad. Lady Isabel Carlyle leaves her husband and children for the aristocratic Francis Levison who, as it turns out, has no intention of marrying her. Having been disfigured in a train accident, the unrecognisable Isabel then takes up the position of governess to her own children in the Carlyle household, with tragic consequences.
Running Time: 23 h 33 m
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Digital ISBN: 978-1-78198-367-6 Cat. no.: NA0504 Produced by: John Foley Edited by: Timothy Brown BISAC: FIC004000 BIC: FC Released: May 21
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Under her married name of Mrs Henry Wood, Ellen Wood (1814–87) was a popular Victorian writer who numbered Leo Tolstoy among her fans. Her most famous novel, East Lynne (1861), is crammed with sensational turns of fortune; even now it is a tear-jerking drama. Written to be read aloud in weekly instalments, it springs to life as an audiobook.
Wood deftly interweaves plot and subplots, and paints the contrasting societies of the little town of West Lynne and the great house of East Lynne in fascinating detail. Outspoken on corrupt aristocrats, forthright on faithfulness in marriage, hilarious on pretentiousness and caustic on affectation, the story offers a loveable doomed heroine in Lady Isabel Vane and a noble, if on occasion infuriatingly obtuse, hero in the lawyer Archibald Carlyle, the man she marries from necessity but grows to love beyond measure. Jealousy is the plot’s main driver: Isabel misunderstands the covert meetings of her husband and local beauty Barbara Hare, and falls for the blandishments and lies of the devilish Sir Francis Levison, with whom she long ago fancied herself in love.
Rachel Atkins perfectly projects the central characters and the entertaining lesser mortals: Archibald’s bullying sister Miss Corny, stony-hearted Justice Hare, irrepressible flirt Afy, loyal maid Joyce and gullible greengrocer Joe Jiffin.
Christina Hardyment, The Times
Those who take on this 24-hour-long audiobook will appreciate having Rachel Atkins as their narrator. She’s every good reason to pick up one’s earbuds and listen to Ellen Wood’s 1861 melodrama. Atkins handles characters, plots and subplots with aplomb. Lady Isabel Carlyle leaves her husband and children for a cad. After being abandoned by her lover, disfigured in a train accident, and presumed dead, she returns in deep disguise to her now remarried husband’s estate as governess of her own children. In addition to a subplot concerning an old, unsolved murder, Atkins juggles love affairs, secrets, false identities, family relationships and more, and she does it wonderfully. While this story is a bit dusty, Atkins keeps it fun.