Psychological Fiction: The Origins of a Genre

I had recently decided to read something completely different to what I’d normally choose, and picked up a copy of Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon, which I highly recommend. First published in 1862, it became widely known in Victorian England as a piece of ‘sensation fiction’ and helped to launch a new genre.┬áThis new genre, full of tales of crime and sexual transgression, dominated the market for years, even though critics of the time didn’t favour it. Braddon herself wanted people to look deeper into the genre, asking, ‘Can the sensation be elevated by art?’

Mary Elizabeth Braddon

 

The book covers topics that all go against the norms and values of the time and Victorian womanhood. On one hand a young wife and mother is abandoned by her husband, exploited by her father and has to ensure the safety of her son – thus gaining the readers sympathy. On the other hand, this same woman covers her tracks, attempts murder, is defiant and shows no remorse – losing the sympathy the reader had for her. Continue reading