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The Sealed Letter Hardcover – Mar 28 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. In 1864 London, after a separation of seven years, Helen, now the wife of Vice-Admiral Codrington, bumps into her old friend Emily Faithful, now a well-known feminist and independent printer. As Donoghue (Slammerkin) deliciously unspools the twisted roots of their intimacy, Emily soon finds herself party to Helen's clandestine affair and snared in the sensational divorce proceedings that ensue (and which are based on an actual case from the period). Donoghue's elegantly styled, richly woven tale absorbs the everyday lives of Victorian women (rich, poor, working, home-bound, feminist, adulteress) and men (officer, lawyer, minister, adulterer, even an amateur detective) in a colorful tapestry of spiraling intrigue, innuendo, speculation and mystery. Characters indulge in pleasures at which Victorian novels could only hint, and which Donoghue renders with aplomb. Period details—etiquette, typesetting, dress, medical treatments, public amusements, shipping and jurisprudence—are rendered with a spare exactitude organic to the story. Donoghue's latest has style and scandal to burn. (Sept.)
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?Juicy, vicious, elegant and thoughtful. . . . Donoghue is supremely talented.?(The Globe and Mail) See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
So is the case with The Sealed Letter. As in previous novels, the story is based upon actual historical facts and persons. We meet 'Fido" Faithfull, a liberal thinking spinster who runs her own printing press espousing her 'Cause'- Women's Rights. She meets up with an old friend Helen Codrington, who detests her older husband Admiral Codrington, and the restrictions society puts upon 'correct' female behaviour. Fido is drawn into Helen's world, but is naive and trusting. She offers true friendship, but due to Helen's machinations, is instead thrust unwillingly into the public eye in Helen's very messy divorce. This divorce case takes place in 1864, but believe it or not features a stained dress (sound familiar?), accusations of rape and a mysterious sealed letter that could decide the case.
Donoghue captures the language, the emotions and the time period eloquently. The Sealed Letter is the third of a loose trilogy exploring Victorian society and life through the eyes of the different classes. Slammerkin explores the poor, Life Mask the very rich and The Sealed Letter the middle class. All are extremely enjoyable reads.
Miss Emily "Fido" Faithful was a businesswoman and feminist active in the British women's movement. She was also a spinster (how I hate that word.) She ran into her friend, Helen Codrington by chance, or so we believe. She used to live with Helen and her husband Harry before they moved away to Malta. Fido got caught up in the details of Helen's failing marriage and tries to help her as a loyal friend would. With mud slinging from both sides in court and the tabloids, can Fido keep her reputation in tact?
I don't normally enjoy tabloid dramas, however this is an exception. I love Victorian era stories and Emma Donoghue weaves a good story. It appears well researched and her characters are vivid and come to life. Emma helps the reader see each character's side of the story rather then just slanting it in the favor of one side. This makes for a balanced, well-written, and entertaining story.
Thanks to Harper Collins Canada for the advanced readers copy.