My thanks to NetGalley and Bloomsbury USA for an advance digital copy to read and review.
My Review 4****
Isabella Walker is a widow of thirty-one when she marries Henry Robinson in 1844, and whilst this marriage offers her protection, Isabella is dissatisfied with her relationship with her cold, and very often absent, husband. Isabella becomes infatuated with the husband of a close friend, and records her thoughts and feelings in a private journal. Over time, the diary entries become more obsessive and passionate, so that when her husband, Henry discovers this journal in 1858, he assumes that Isabella has been unfaithful. What then follows is an account of the divorce trial between Isabella and Henry, when all of Isabella’s fantasies are laid open to scrutiny, and salacious gossip.
Kate Summerscale has vividly recreated the Victorian world of hypocrisy and double standards and has woven together a story that is both shocking and scandalous. The Robinson's court proceedings highlights one of the first divorce trials in the United Kingdom, and gives a fascinating insight into the Victorian legal system. The very idea of a married Victorian woman defending her absolute right to record her innermost thoughts and feelings,without being seen as wanton or lacking in moral values, makes for compelling reading.
As with her previous book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale has recreated the very essence of Victorian culture. In a time when women were seen and not heard and when to be beholden to domineering men was paramount to survival, Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace emphasises the scurrilous and profound gender differences in Victorian society.
Kate Summerscale is an English writer and journalist. She won the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non Fiction in 2008, with her book The Suspicions of Mr Whicher.