An Introduction To: Sensation Novels

Hi everyone,

I mentioned The Victorian Sensation Novel in a previous post on Wilkie Collins. You can read that here. I thought I would write a little bit more about Sensation Novels, what makes a Sensation Novel, some good examples of Sensation Novels and why I love reading them.

The Sensation Novel was made popular during the Victorian era (1837 – 1901) and was founded through the writing of three novels: The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, East Lynne by Ellen Wood, and Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

The Sensation Novel genre was seen as short-lived but very catalystic to a shift in Victorian literature. It only really gained popularity from the year of 1855 and only lasted for around 35 years before drifting into the background and being forgotten about. The genre was incredibly different from typical Victorian literature which focused on society, morals, the public vs private lives of people, love and marriage are central themes. Sensation Novels tend to focus more on murder, bigamy, adultery, poisoning, rivalry, villains, disasters, the supernatural… Essentially, the Sensation Novel filled in the voids that the very tame and standardised Victorian novels left open, but were well-placed within a society where newspapers were reporting of murders, disasters, bigamy quite frequently in the London underworld. Almost to fill a craving for the unknown, the unspoken about and the mysterious, as well as a form of escapsism from an otherwise mundane society.

Sensation Novels were devised to be shocking, gripping and thrilling with fast-paced storylines, over-the-top characters often with a mystery at its core. Though I love Sensation Novels, they weren’t always popular and many saw them as directly in conflict with the moral standards of Victorian society and unacceptable reading material, especially for women who were deemed more delicate and impressionable. Despite this, it seemed people were eager to read about scandal and sensation and a lust for drama was fed directly by the Victorian Sensation Novel.


The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

East Lynne by Ellen Wood

Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

No Name by Wilkie Collins

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

Aurora Floyd by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

Armadale by Wilkie Collins

Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu

Jezebel’s Daughter by Wilkie Collins

A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

Have you read any Sensation Novels? What are your favourites? If you have any recommendations then let me know.

Thanks for reading!

Love, Zoë xx


2 thoughts on “An Introduction To: Sensation Novels

Add yours

  1. I love Lady Audley’s Secret! I studied it at university and wrote some blog posts about it too lol.

    In my opinion, it’s an easy to read book (which for a classic was surprising), it’s fun, exciting, and a bit Gothic and crazy too!

    Liked by 1 person

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