The spin number in The Classics Club Spin is number …
which means I’m slated to read Armadale by Wilkie Collins by Sunday. December 3 .
This is the third of his four ‘great novels’ of the 1860s: following after The Woman in White (1859–60) and No Name (1862), and before The Moonstone (1868). It first appeared in serial format in the Cornhill Magazine, issued in twenty monthly instalments between November 1864 and June 1866.
I read this many years ago so I know to expect plenty of melodrama and a complicated plot though I have next to zero recollection of the plot or the characters. The Wikipedia entry is very long but the Goodreads summary is easier to follow.
When the elderly Allan Armadale makes a terrible confession on his death-bed, he has little idea of the repercussions to come, for the secret he reveals involves the mysterious Lydia Gwilt: flame-haired temptress, bigamist, laudanum addict and husband-poisoner. Her malicious intrigues fuel the plot of this gripping melodrama: a tale of confused identities, inherited curses, romantic rivalries, espionage, money—and murder.Synopsis at Goodreads.com
Just as in The Woman in White, Collins includes a touch of the supernatural, questions of identity and an element of detection. Like the later The Moonstone, he uses a device where the narrative is built from a series of testimonies and accounts (such as from characters’ diaries and letters) which gradually shed light on the mystery.
Early critics were scathing in their assessment of the literary merits of this novel, dismissing it as mere sensationalism. One described the novel as “a lurid labyrinth of improbabilities” and another as “a discordant mosaic instead of a harmonious picture” whose heroine was “a woman fouler than the refuse of the streets.” More recent assessments however have pointed to the novel’s psychological depth and complexity.
It’s a long time since I last read Collins or any 19th century sensational fiction for that matter, so I’m looking forward to getting stuck in. However, Armadale is Collins’ longest novel — my Penguin classics edition comes in at more than 700 pages — which at my current reading speed is going to take me about three weeks to finish. Better get started soon otherwise it will be another Classics Club spin fail.