• Kit Eyre

A Bit of Backstory

My favourite Wilkie Collins novel is one that most people haven't heard of.


Published in 1870, the subject of Man and Wife is, as you might expect, marriage. It's more didactic than some of Collins' earlier novels and focuses on the effects of marriage laws in Victorian society and how they can backfire.

It's a strange novel to have as a favourite, especially when you consider brilliant works like The Moonstone and The Woman in White are right there for the taking. But Man and Wife has a strange allure, just like its protagonist, Anne Silvester. Even though I'm very aware of some of the novel's flaws, I've reread it multiple times and I'll be rereading it again in the near future.


Something that Collins does, in keeping with other novelists of the era, is introduce his characters via a lengthy backstory preamble. In short, Anne's mother's marriage misfortune is echoed by Anne's predicament in the novel and the backstory serves as an important parallel to what's going on in the main plot.


Backstory is important in sensation novels. Plenty of the important stuff takes place before readers join the story and we experience the sensational ramifications. The Victorian fiction masters often load their backstory up front and I've followed their lead - almost.


The Letters of Introduction I've been writing for I Am Allegra Bartlett put some backstory upfront for those who like a little teasing, but all the information will come out in the main instalments later. What I'm hoping the Letters do is follow the lead of my sensation fiction heroes and hint at what's to come.


Read the first three Letters of Introduction for free on the I Am Allegra Bartlett website now. There are three more to come!

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