I loved Lady Audley's Secret, Mary Elizabeth Braddon's first 'sensation' novel; it's what prompted me to buy Aurora Floyd in the first place. And that book has been languishing on my shelf ever since. I'm not sure why I've put off reading it for so long, but I thought I'd better tackle it first this year before I put it off again. (As a bookish bonus, it also fills the 'Classic with a Person's Name in the Title' category in this year's Back to the Classics Challenge.)
About the book:
Aurora Floyd is an impetuous dark-eyed beauty "who lives quickly". She's passionate and thoughtless, but not cruel or unkind; she's petted and spoiled, but she also has a generous and warm-hearted side. Everyone seems to love her even though she's not as concerned with society's conventions as she should be. "But then, if she had been faultless, she could not have been the heroine of this story." What's her greatest fault of all? Aurora Floyd has a secret: a youthful indiscretion that overshadows her relationship with her devoted father as well as with the two men who desire to marry her.
"But why did you run away from the Rue St Dominique? And where were you between the month of June in the year fifty-six and last September?"
"I cannot tell you, Talbot Bulstrode. This is my secret, which I cannot tell you."
"You cannot tell me! There is upwards of a year missing from your life; and you cannot tell me, your betrothed husband, what you did with that year?"
"Then, Aurora Floyd, you can never be my wife."She loses the first man who loves her; marries the second who adores her. And still her terrible secret darkens her otherwise happy life. Like a gathering storm, trouble comes in the form of blackmail, two new enemies, and the inopportune arrival of James Conyers, a very unwelcome old acquaintance. There's even a murder. What's a girl like Aurora to do?
I liked this novel, although through the first half of it I felt that I was always seeing Aurora through the subjective gaze of other characters, never through her own, which made it a little hard to like or dislike her, or even feel sorry for her. I liked her much better by the end. She's a pretty gutsy character, especially for the time period. (Aurora Floyd was published in 1863.) Braddon's writing is quite readable, but I found the pacing a bit uneven. At times this 459 page novel really drags (especially in the first 100 pages), but then you turn the page and suddenly find yourself speeding along. While I do think that Lady Audley's Secret is the better novel, I really enjoyed reading this one. Aurora is a one-of-a-kind character who somehow manages to obtain a happy ending to her story. I'm glad to have met her. Sometimes complicated characters are the best kind.