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Armadale (1866)

by Wilkie Collins

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1,1052913,910 (3.97)128
Armadale tells the devastating story of the independent, murderous, and adulterous Lydia Gwilt. This traditional melodrama also considers the modern theme of the role of women in society.
  1. 20
    Diana Tempest by Mary Cholmondeley (nessreader)
    nessreader: High victorian melodramatic pageturners with all-too-clearly signposted villains and quite rigid gender roles, with inheritance wars driving the plot and the characters anxious about what the neighbours will think.
  2. 10
    Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon (DiscothequeKittens)
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Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
The Woman in White is one of my all time favourites. Armadale doesn't quite come up to that standard but it was a really enjoyable read. It is difficult to believe it was written as far back as 1866-there is so much that works equally as well in our sophisticated world. I was also staggered that a Victorian male could create such a complex character as Lydia Gwilt. She is compelling and everything steps up a gear as soon as she takes centre stage. To actually tell a great part of the story from her viewpoint-the supposed 'wicked woman'-in the form of a diary and some letters is original and effective. As the tale reached its tension-filled ending I felt myself uttering inward gasps as the twists kept coming and,without giving too much away, I shed a little tear. ( )
  Patsmith139 | Mar 15, 2021 |
Armadale, Wilkie Collins’s longest novel and like another of his popular novels, The Moonstone, the narrative comprises a series of testimonies and accounts (such as from characters’ diaries and letters) which gradually shed light on the mystery. One interesting note: the heading of Chapter VII is "The Plot Thickens". I do not know if that was the first use of that phrase (I doubt it) but it is striking that Collins would use it for a chapter heading.

In 1832, Allan Armadale confesses on his deathbed to murder: his clerk, Fergus Ingleby, stole his name and married Jane Blanchard, the woman Allan loved. Pursuing the couple on board a ship, Allan locked Fergus in a cabin and left him to drown when the ship was wrecked. Allan later travelled to the West Indies where he married a creole woman and had a son.
After this opening the story moves to 1851, and the murderer’s son has adopted the name Ozias Midwinter, while the drowned Fergus Ingleby’s has been brought up under the name Allan Armadale – and with it, has inherited Fergus’ property, the estate of Thorpe Ambrose. Ozias learns the truth about his father’s crime – that he murdered his friend’s father – while on a sailing trip with Fergus and Jane’s son, Allan Armadale. He destroys the letter containing Allan Armadale Senior’s confession, and vows to keep the secret from his friend.

Lydia Gwilt, the former maid to Jane Blanchard (Allan’s father), sets her sights on marrying Allan for his money. Both Ozias Midwinter and Allan Armadale end up falling for Lydia, but her plan to marry Armadale is scuppered when her cynical motives are uncovered. However the resourceful Lydia, having learned the secret that Midwinter’s real name is also Allan Armadale, plans to marry him under his real name, get the other Allan Armadale out of the way, and then use the marriage certificate as legal proof of her entitlement to the Armadale estate. This complex plot continues as Lydia marries Midwinter, concealing her checkered past from him but the denouement will have to await your reading pleasure for this reader must vow not to spoil that delight.

Armadale is unusual among Wilkie Collins’s sensation novels because it demonstrates a detailed interest in human psychology, with dreams cropping up at numerous points in the novel, and Collins taking time to explore what John Sutherland, in The Longman Companion to Victorian Fiction, calls ‘the psychology of crime’. Granted, the dreams are used as plot devices rather than as a sort of proto-stream-of-consciousness designed to shed light on Allan Armadale’s character; but Collins’s use of the dreams, and Midwinter’s analysis of their significance as premonitions, adds another psychological layer to this complex novel. The real triumph of Armadale is Collins’s portrayal of Lydia Gwilt, whose surname suggests ‘guilt’ (and ‘gilt’, evoking her gold-digging ambitions), but also, through a twist, ‘will’, foregrounding her own independent agency and, it must be said, her perseverance and cunning. This is a great read which I would recommend to lovers of Dickens or Thackeray. ( )
  jwhenderson | Oct 12, 2019 |
This is a rather long, somewhat confusing, but extremely engaging book. First of all, there's an Alan Armadale who is in the process of dying in a Swiss health resort. He's there with his mulatto wife and his young son, also named Alan Armadale. Before he dies, he writes a confession, which is to be read by his son, but only after he reaches his majority.

It seems the Elder Armadale inherited a plantation in the West Indies, provided he took on the name Alan Armadale. This he did. He was also supposed to go off to Madeira and meet a young lady with whom he was supposed to marry. But he was held up by circumstances, and someone else snuck off to Madeira, impersonated himself as Alan Armadale, and, with much help from a 12- or 14-year old lady's maid, took the woman off and married her just before the "real" Alan Armadale showed up. Then, on the trip from Madeira back to England, the "real" Alan Armadale comes across a foundering ship in a storm. Everyone is saved, with the exception of the "fake" Alan Armadale, whom the "real" Alan Armadale locks in the captain's cabin to drown. Something like that.

The murderer feels guilty and is sure that his sin will be meted upon his son's head. His son is also named Alan Armadale, and is bi-racial, his father having married a West-Indian woman. Anyway, the father dies and his son is taken off with his mother and abused by a Scottish gentleman who has taken the mother to wife. This Alan Armadale, we'll call him the "dark" Armadale, runs away and lives a rough life on his own. He changes his name to Ozias Midwinter.

Eventually, Midwinter, still a wanderer at 21 or so, finds himself deathly sick. He is visited, be-friended, and nursed back to health by a jolly young fellow of similar age. The jolly young fellow is fair and is named Alan Armadale (hereafter the "fair" Armadale). He is the son of the "fake" Armadale and the young woman with whom he eloped. They become the best of friends, and remain so even after the "dark" Armadale finally reads his father's warning never to have dealings with anyone associated with the tragedy in which he murdered the "fake" Armadale. He is to eschew relations with anyone named Alan Armadale, and more importantly, with the lady's maid who is more-or-less responsible for having engineered the original fraud.

Well, as you can tell, the story is convoluted, but becomes even more so when the lady's maid who helped with the earlier elopement comes back into the story. She's hoping to charm the "fair" Armadale and share in his riches. But, she's really taken with the "dark" Armadale.

Well, I'm sure you all are confused as hell by now. So am I. Whatever, it's a very interesting and compelling book. Collins was a wildly popular Victorian author, like Dickens, but unlike Dickens, he is much less read today. Pity that.

I can't leave off without dissing, once again, the folks at Amazon. In their recent kindle offerings they claim to provide "real" page numbers. Well, this book has just under 300,000 words in it (I counted them), but Amazon's "real" page numbering algorithm credits the book with 425 "real" pages. Can anyone point me to a significant number of novels that have 700 words per page? The normal word count for novels is between 250 and 400 words per page. For example, my Modern Library edition of Brothers Karamazov has 940 pp. That novel runs 350,000 words (I counted them). Modern Library editions are known for small margins and small font sizes. Even so, we're only talking 372 words/page for Brothers K, just over half what Amazon considers valid for this particular edition. Clearly, whoever came up with this "real" page algorithm doesn't even have the competence of an average 12-year old nerd. WTF?
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
Extremely convoluted plot. Two men with the same name who become friends despite the fact that one of their fathers murdered the other; an amoral femme fatale who entrances literally every man she comes across; villainous villains and a gullible hero.

Very enjoyable, although very long and requiring lots of suspension of disbelief. I couldn't quite work out why Midwinter lost interest in Lydia only two weeks after marrying her and I found the narrative of the Dream so boring that I skipped over it, which was perhaps not the best thing to have done.

Definitely "Victorian" in its emotions and attitudes and interesting in its depiction of Victorian laws surrounding marriage.

Fun. ( )
1 vote pgchuis | Jul 9, 2017 |
I love Collins character development,writing style and storylines. That said,this book had sections that were so long and dragged out that it made the climatic parts anti-climatic...for me.You cannot skim thru parts of Collins books,you will lose important details for the story. I liked the story,I just felt this could have been a bit shorter in length.Not as good as The Woman in White,but a good mystery. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Wilkie Collinsprimary authorall editionscalculated
Peters, CatherineEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sutherland, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To John Foster
In Acknowledgement of the service which he has rendered to the cause of literature by his Life of Goldsmith, and in affectionate remembrance of a friendship which is associated with some of the happiest years of my life.
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It was the opening of the season of eighteen hundred and thirty-two, at the Baths of WILDBAD.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Armadale tells the devastating story of the independent, murderous, and adulterous Lydia Gwilt. This traditional melodrama also considers the modern theme of the role of women in society.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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