If you’re following the progress of our first Braddon read-along, which takes place on Twitter and (optionally) in the comments of the monthly posts on this website, we’re just about halfway through and getting closer to the big reveal of Aurora’s secret! Below, you’ll find chapter summaries, discussion questions, and some thoughts on the project as a whole.
June 2017: installment 6 (chs 16-18)
Ch. 16. Conyers finally makes an appearance. He’s described as ideally beautiful, but has a distinctive limp. He hires “Softy” to do domestic chores for him.
Ch. 17. Conyers and Aurora have a series of cryptic epistolary interchanges. Mrs. Powell becomes more and more suspicious, particularly after Aurora goes from careworn to jolly.
Ch. 18. Aurora goes to meet Conyers in person, and Mrs. Powell follows and plays the spy.
Q1: Braddon’s descriptions of setting, people, and the weather continue to be unusual and perhaps overstated in this installment. Let’s talk about her aesthetics!
Q2: John Mellish, an easy-going character in earlier installments, gets increasingly anxious and increasingly concerned about gender and propriety in this installment. Why the change?
Q3: As Aurora’s past becomes clearer—bit by slow bit—her fate becomes murkier. The narrator seems sympathetic and optimistic. What do you think will happen to Aurora when all is finally revealed?
Q4: This installment repeatedly references class relations via the master/servant relationship (or lack thereof). Is there an underlying message, here?
Share your own questions with the group using the #MEBAread hashtag!
Inevitably, as we get further and further into our read-along, I find myself reflecting on the process and what I’d do differently next time. Discussion has flagged just a bit with the summer months, and I think this sort of long-term reading is a bit slow going for the majority of us. In future read-alongs, I’d recommend setting up a series of ICYMI (in case you missed it) posts each month that act like the recap function in TV series — just to keep participants up to date. In fact, time permitting, I may be implementing those in the coming months. I’d also recommend lining up scholars to guest-run the read along for a day or two at a time, bringing their particular expertise to the discussion. If this were to become an annual event, I’d also think about setting up prizes for top participants–in tiered levels (students, post graduates, etc), and inviting people to present their own Braddon scholarship via Twitter as part of the read-along.