Our March Non-Fiction Book of the Month, MRS ROBINSON'S DISGRACE, is a real-life Madame Bovary story. Isabella Robinson is a frustrated Victorian wife, her mind bursting with philosophical and political ideas, yet her life strictly curtailed by rigid social expectations and patriarchal laws. She turns to her private diary for solace, also recording her growing feelings towards a gentle young doctor...
When her husband discovers Isabella's journal, describing not only secret trysts but also her innermost desires and fantasies, he brings it to the divorce court as evidence. Her private life is sensationally picked over across the nation, amid accusations of hysteria, insanity and moral degradation.
Kate Summerscale is the author of the number one best-selling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize, winner of the Galaxy British Book of the Year Award, a Richard and Judy Book Club pick and adapted into a major ITV drama.
We'll post on here when all the copies have gone. If you're not lucky enough to bag one of the free books, you can always get your paperback or Kindle version here.
When you've read your copy, please come and discuss the book throughout the month and share your thoughts on Isabella, Victorian morals and Kate Summerscale's creative style. Looking forward to seeing you all here...
I asked for this book for Christmas and got round to reading it in early Feb - so a bit hazy on the detail.
I really enjoyed reading the book and got through it very quickly. There were parts of it that went into a bit too much detail, where perhaps the author felt "I've done the research so I'm bloody well going to get this into the book."
What was most striking was the section about the court case and other cases being dealt with around the same time: it is astounding how far women's rights and public perceptions have moved in a relatively short space of time (in the affluent West, at least). It made me hopeful that in other parts of the world, where women are still treated as chattels and it is perfectly acceptable and even commendable to beat them for any 'wrong' behaviour, things might change too.
But it also made me very aware of the fact that our freedoms are hard-won and under constant pressure. See this article: woman gets fired for pre-marital sex, and her job is then offered to her boyfriend.
I was lucky enough to get one of the free copies-a week after I had bought my own lol! so have given one away.
I really enjoyed this book and it as obvious that the author had done her homework. However I was puzzled as to whether or not we were meant to believe isabella's version of events?-she seemed to fall in lust with every man tht crossed her path
I would have liked to have heard more about the doctors brother who faked his own death and then wrote a sexual health book-thats sounds like a very good story in its own right!
At first I found Isabella's depression and whining a bit irritating, but I got more interested and really enjoyed the parts about the court case.The complete dominance of the husband in a marriage was shocking.
Summerscale writes very well and doesn't let the story get bogged down in detail. I'm going to look out for her other books.
I enjoyed reading it, but initially was a bit confused about the chain of events. Shocking that Mr Robinsons' infidelity was perfectly acceptable and brushed under the carpet, but that her 'liaisons' were not. I did end up being quite conflicted as to whether there was actually any real sexual activity between Isabella and her objects of desire, or whether it was more a case of her perception of things/overactive imagination.
It does bring home how far we have progressed with equality, but as Limburgs said above, how hard that battle was. And in fact, if that battle has yet been fully won.