Thursday, 22 July 2010

Basil - Wilkie Collins

This was Collins's second published novel. I'm reading a lot of Victorian novels at the moment, both those written in that era and those about that era. Collins is always good to read for research, as he wrote about social issues of the time. Basil, though not as good as his better-known novels - The Woman in White, or The Moonstone - is enjoyable and also educational about just how shocking adultery and marrying outside your class were considered in the mid 1800s.

A young man from a rich and noble family falls in love at first sight with a tradesman's daughter. He marries her in secret, but is forced by her father to agree not to live as man and wife for a year. Just as he's about to claim her she is unfaithful, and hence starts a tragic chain of events.

This book gave me an insight into just how serious class issues were at that time. Basil's father cuts him out of the family completely when he finds out about the marriage. He'd have preferred almost any other form of bad behaviour from Basil than this. His reaction shocks today's readers probably in a similar way to how the depiction of adultery shocked the novel's first readers in the 1850s.

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