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A Victorian "sensation novel" par excellence, but perhaps a little challenging for some when it was first published: 'One of the most hardened female villains whose devices and desires have ever blackened fiction' The Athenaeum reviewer of Armadale (1866). Throughout the novel you know Lydia Gwilt is a wicked woman and that she is out to destroy Alan Armadale, but you can't help wishing her success.
The story opens with Valeria Brinton marrying Eustace Woodville over the objections of Woodville's family. Soon after the wedding Valeria becomes uneasy and starts to suspect her husband is hiding something from his past. Her suspicions are confirmed when she finds he has been using a false name. Collins used his experience studying law to help create one of the earliest female sleuths.
When published in 1862 it was condemned by critics as immoral, today it is regarded as a novel of outstanding social insight. It is the story of two sisters, Magdalen and Norah, who discover that their parents were not married at the time of their birth and that they are, therefore, illegitimate. They are disinherited and expelled from their family estate. They either adapt to their new station in life, or attempt to recover their wealth by any means...
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