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Jezebel's Daughter by Wilkie Collins

Jezebel's Daughter (1880)

by Wilkie Collins

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I simply love Wilkie Collins style of writing and have indeed read most of his works with great pleasure. I have not come across this particular story before however. It is a tale of Madame Fontaine and her innocent daughter Minna. The mother is a strong minded woman who is ambitious for her daughter and will stop at nothing to place her in a safe and settled position in life. To this end she will lie and steal,indeed she is prepared to commit murder to achieve her ambitions.Quite simply ,brilliant. ( )
  devenish | Mar 7, 2014 |
Ah, the innocent love between man and maiden. What matters it that the man’s father is rich and above reproach, and the maiden’s mother is a poor widow and suspected of evil doings.

Who among us knows the capacity for wickedness that lies dormant in our natures, until the fatal event comes and calls it forth.

This was my first Wilkie Collins, and I thoroughly enjoyed his story and his characters. Although you know “whodunit” from the title, and from the early pages, you know the “how”, the story runs its course and takes you along for a ride in an 1880s suspense novel. ( )
2 vote countrylife | Feb 15, 2012 |
Jezebel's Daughter, published in 1880, is a Victorian thriller from that master of the genre, Wilkie Collins. In this story, plot is a much stronger driving force than the big idea that generally dominates Collins' books. The overarching theme in this tale is the psychology of an evil woman and a study of the forces (maternal instincts, in this case) that both cause and check her wickedness. Can Jezebel's daughter redeem Jezebel... or is she the reason for her mother's evil?

There isn't much to spoiler; the title pretty much tells you who the villain is. Two men — one a brilliant chemist, the other a shrewd businessman — die on the same day, leaving their wives a mixed legacy. Madame Fontaine, the widow of the chemist, is left with the poisons he was researching (wow, I wonder what she's going to do with those!), while Mrs. Wagner is left with her husband's mental health institution reforms and his plans for hiring women along with men in his firm's offices. The story is narrated by Mrs. Wagner's nephew David Glenney, and supplemented with extracts from the letters and diaries of various characters. Collins does love his different narrative voices, doesn't he?

Considering the predominance of plot over idea in Jezebel's Daughter, one would think that the characters would have a much stronger presence as unique individuals than do Collins' characters in his more theme-driven works. But this is not the case. Oh, there are certainly some fun characters here: Jack Straw is a fascinating portrait of mental instability, with his funny ways and insuperable vanity. But besides him, everyone else is pretty much standard fare: the young, idealistic lovers, the suspicious (but sometimes oh so daft!) narrator, the evil, charming female schemer, the stern man of business, the erudite, naive chemist, etc. These are all types that Collins does very well, but they do suffer somewhat from being done so very often.

As always in Collins' books, the reader is treated to slices of Victorian life mixed with a heavy dose of melodrama — even a resurrection from the dead! You really have to love the stageyness of it all to survive and thrive whilst reading a Wilkie Collins novel. Fortunately I do love it, all that glorious, messy, over-the-top culmination of human emotions brought about by a highly coincidental set of circumstances. It's just fun. But I can see many readers losing patience with the elaborate set-up all leading to a most predictable shock.

It is generally accepted that Collins' later works are weaker than his earlier successes on almost every level, and Jezebel's Daughter, though by no means dreadful, is no exception. It's really more of a middling title amidst his repertoire. Still, for sheer entertainment value, Collins is one of my favorite authors. Readers interested in Victorian methods of dealing with the insane, steps toward labor equality, and the age-old fascination with the Jezebel villainess will find much to enjoy here. ( )
4 vote atimco | Apr 27, 2010 |
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In the matter of Jezebel's Daughter, my recollections begin with the deaths of two foreign gentlemen, in two different countries, on the same day of the same year.
Who among us knows the capacity for wickedness that lies dormant in our natures, until the fatal event comes and calls it forth.
Ought I, in this hard case, to have diminished my expenditure to the level of my reduced income?
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0750908424, Paperback)

A novel set in the nineteenth century which tells the story of a forbidden romance which develops between the daughter of a disgraced and penniless widow and the son of a successful businessman.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:30 -0400)

This vintage book contains William Wilkie Collins' 1880 novel, "Jezebel's Daughter". Based in the 1858 play "The Red Vial", it is a dramatic story of deceit and mystery based around Mrs. Fontaine, a disquieting widow who employs various poisons and remedies to manipulate her family and friends. This volume is highly recommend for lovers of chilling literature, and it is not to be missed by fans of Collins' masterful work. William Wilkie Collins (1824-1889) was an English playwright, author, and novelist. Other notable works by this author include: "The Woman in White" (1859), "No Name" (1862), and "Armadale" (1866). Many vintage books such as this are increasingly scarce and expensive. We are republishing this volume now in an affordable, modern edition complete with a specially commissioned new introduction.… (more)

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