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Girl in a Blue Dress
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Girl in a Blue Dress

3.53 of 5 stars 3.53  ·  rating details  ·  1,488 ratings  ·  362 reviews
Beloved writer Alfred Gibson's funeral is taking place at Westminster Abbey, and Dorothea, his wife of twenty years has not been invited. Gibson's will favours his many children and secret mistress over Dorothea - who was sent away from the family home when their youngest was still an infant. Dorothea hasn't left her apartment for years, but when she receives a surprise in ...more
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Published (first published August 1st 2008)
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I was surprised by how complex this book is. Much like Paula McLain's The Paris Wife, this novel takes the breakdown of a famous writer's marriage and transcends the tawdrier qualities to present a moving, realistic portrayal of personalities and emotions abruptly whipsawn by circumstances. Gaynor Arnold doesn't pretend this is a completely factual account -- unlike Ms McLain, she didn't have a wealth of source material to work from -- but it's still a very realistic account of Victorian moralit ...more
This was our book club pick for January. I was really excited to read this book. It is based on the marriage of Charles Dickens and his wife Catherine. Before beginning this book I had zero back ground knowledge of their marriage...or lives for that matter. Believe me the cover alone had me intrigued.

Here is my advice: Do Not Read this book if/when you are feeling slightly depressed, fat, or if you are having marital difficulties. It could put you over the edge. It nearly put me over the edge...
Adriane Devries
Gaynor Arnold’s first published novel, a fictional memoir told from the point of view of Charles Dickens’ estranged wife, proves that there are still great, new authors with much to contribute to the world of letters. Combining Dickens-inspired language and convincing social mores and scenery, she furnishes the tabloid-worthy facts of the complex author’s life with characters who, like himself, are at times villains, comic relief, and occasionally unlikely heroes; and by featuring one of his fav ...more
I really enjoyed every page of this first novel by Gaynor Arnold, this was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize and it should have won!

Dorothea, widow of Alfred Gibson narrates the story. Alfred was the most famous novelist of Victorian times and much loved by the British public. The story opens on the day of his funeral - to which Dorothea was not invited. They have lived apart for many years and Dorothea has been banished to a small London house. Whilst the rest of the country mourns Alfred's
Liked reading it, but not sure whether I could recommend it. Yes, there seemed to be a conclusion and yes, Catherine's voice is strong in here. But really. WHAT WAS THE POINT? We never got a satisfying conclusion; the confrontation with her sister and with the 'mistress' gave me no sense of closure. I was so disappointed in the end because nothing seems to change. But I guess that could be the point; nothing is supposed to change. This is a portrayal of Dicken's life and Catherine's previously u ...more
Good book, but if you like Charles Dickens, do not read it because you will not like him as a person when you finish this book!
I thoroughly enjoyed this! Based on the marriage of Charles Dickens through the eyes of his wife Catherine. The names of the characters were changed for the purpose of this book but the foreword confirms the family on which it is based and the level of research done.

Alfred (Charles) was an endearing, colourful character who fell in love with the timid Dorothy (Catherine) when she was still young and pure. Once she had given birth, he turned his affections to her younger virginal sisters though i
I may not appreciate Charles Dicken's writing, but his life certainly makes for a good novel. This was a very quick read, not only because it falls comfortably into the easily digestible language of the YA genre, but because it was well-paced, with the backstory woven into the "current" plot in a very logical, forward-moving sort of way. I generally do not appreciate "old England" sorts of books, either, but this one got the language just right. What's more, the characters were fully believable ...more
"The Girl in the Blue Dress" is a fictionalized account of the life of Charles Dickens from the viewpoint of his wife Catherine. For years Catherine was viewed as sort of a 'Shakespeare's Wife'. A shadow of no real interest except for the number of children she gave birth to. A dull footnote in a brilliant man's career. In "Girl" Dickens is Alfred Gibson and Catherine is his wife Dorothea. In this Alfred is the It Boy of Victorian letters, magnetic, representing the values of home and hearth, po ...more
Cheryl Gatling
This book begins in sadness and progresses into misery. The story opens as the great Victorian writer Alfred Gibson is being buried. His cast-off wife Dorothea (Dodo) is not invited to the funeral. It is a common enough sad old story that a man throws off the wife of his youth for a younger, prettier girl. But as Dodo relives the story of her marriage through flashbacks, her experience shows itself to be even darker. Alfred Gibson was like a force of nature. He was outgoing, brilliant, and funny ...more
Like so many people, I am a big Charles Dickens fan. That being said, I definitely think the situation he perpetuated with his wife was in very poor taste. This book is based on Alfred and Dorothea "Dodo" Gibbons-but it is based on the Dickens' story. I know the author was trying to give Catherine Dickens a voice and a chance at redeeming her life after the death of her husband. I also understand that this all took place in a different place and time, but my frustration kept building as Dorothea ...more
Nancy Oakes
As the story (set squarely in the Victorian era) opens, a woman is sitting at home, unable to go to her husband's funeral. Thousands of other people went, but she is at home in a small apartment. She can only hear the details from her daughter. The woman in question is Dorothea, nicknamed Dodo; the dead man is Alfred Gibson, known also as the One and Only, a famous British writer whose works were read even by the queen. Dorothea did not go to the funeral because no one wanted her there; it turns ...more
This is a "book of fiction" but although the names have been changed, it is the story of Charles Dicken's wife. I was completely absorbed in the story, so much so that I borrowed a biography of Dickens from the library to check certain facts and events. Dorothea (Catherine) was completely smitten when she first met Alfred (Charles) as a young girl. As he became more popular and widely read, their life together falls apart. She continues to adore him, but the burden of raising their 8 (10) childr ...more
P.d.r. Lindsay
Long listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2008 , and rightly so, this literary historical novel is a gem. Based on the idea that being married to a great man and public figure is not what people imagine, or what the ‘Great Man’ says it is, Ms Arnold looks to Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine Hogarth, for inspiration. She gives us the One and Only, the Great Original, Alfred Gibson, and his wife, Dorothea (Dodo). The story begins with the Great Man’s funeral and is told by his wife. No, this ...more
This just eeked out the second star. It was just barely ok. The subtitle caught my eye at the library and, since I'm interested in Dickens, sounded appealing. I would have enjoyed a non-fiction account of his marriage more, though this mirrored it in many ways. The goofy titles the author made up for use in place of Dickens' actual novels were enough to make anyone blanch. The writing itself was uninspired and only the curiosity to find out what would become of the title character was enough to ...more
Amanda Nicole
I picked up this novel last week, and I have to say that I couldn't put it down. But in this case it is mostly due to that I like to finish what I start, and not due to a hopeful excitement to finish a good book.
From the outset I really enjoyed Gaynor Arnold's style of writing. Very compelling and simply easy to read for hours. Partly why I couldn't put Girl in a Blue Dress down. As I continued reading, my anticipation for what happened next was at a high, but an increasingly irritated one at th
This story is interesting in that it is based on the life of Charles Dickens. Past that, I found his wife (Dorothea in the story) in disturbing circumstances. Being cast off from your family and not being able to stand up for oneself certainly speaks to Victorian times but also to Dorothea's character. She was weak as her husband describes her in the story and I feel so deeply sorry for her, having lost two children in the story not long before he throws her out of the house. I found this story ...more
A Dickens fan from the time I could read, I learned from other accounts over the years about his marriage and related issues. This brilliant fictional recreation by Gaynor Arnold is revelatory not only about how the marriage might have played out, but also about the mores of the times in which Charles and Catherine Hogarth Dickens lived. One reviewer here cautioned fat readers not to approach the book, but I thought Arnold did a magnificent job of allowing the fat 'Dorothea Gibson' her dignity w ...more
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Arnold has created novel in which the story reflects the life of Charles Dickens. The main characters are Alfred Gibson and his wife, Dorothea. The story begins with their courtship, and proceeds through their marriage with the birth of many children, and the eventual marriage collapse. The magnetism of Gibson’s personality and the popularity of his books continued to draw adulation from his fans. The story illustrates the strictness of the Victorian era and how a marriage break-up and separatio ...more
Loved it - fictional account of Dickens' marriage and his abandonment of Catherine Hogarth (his wife) - which, in his case, reflecting Victorian values - but looked down on even then -didn't mean him going off with a younger woman, it meant him throwing his wife out of the house and more or less separating her from her children, and at the same time pursuing his relationship with a younger woman (Ellen Ternan) but in a way which meant that she too was hidden from society and places in a difficul ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
Even as a child, Charles Dickens' private life bothered me. I had a Puffin Classics edition of one of his books which included a one paragraph biography at the front which described how he separated from his wife 'to pursue his friendship' with an actress. Even aged seven, I knew what that meant and for someone who was undergoing a Presbyterian up-bringing at the time, I couldn't believe that he had been allowed to behave so appallingly and still be famous. Over the years I discovered that I qui ...more
On the third Thursday of every month, I shuffle off to my local library reading group. Our reading list is essentially whatever the librarian can get her hands on more than ten copies of, and so is sometimes ridiculous (“here's the second in a trilogy because we only had nine copies of number one!”) often repetitive (“enjoy your third Costa nominee in a row about Europe in WWII!”) and sometimes far too much of a challenge to be completed inside a month – when faced with Charles Dickens' Our Mutu ...more
Cait S
I was surprised to find how much I enjoyed this book. Historical fiction is pretty much the last genre I'll pick up willingly so to find one that I was actually interested in was surprising. I wouldn't call this a quick read although it's fairly straightforward. It is fairly dense and tends to ramble in places, especially near the end.

But man, does it make up for it with emotional impact! I wanted to throttle the already-dead Alfred for being the biggest possible...I can't think of a word sever
It took me a few chapters to get sucked into this book but took over my life until I finished it. I made myself stay up until 2:00 in the morning to finish it so I could focus on my family again the next day. Author does an amazing job of capturing the voices of Charles Dickens and his family so that you really feel like you know them. Fascinating and heartbreaking portrait of a marriage...but what I enjoyed most was the metamorphous of the main character- Dodie. I love how she has the ...more
Despite its somewhat feminist sensibilities, this is a thoroughly old-fashioned book -- which is appropriate since it's inspired by Dickens. Throughout, the dialogue sounds utterly written, not spoken. Once I got over this artifice and accepted the book on its own terms (within in first 20 pages or so) I was hooked. I liked this one a lot and I'm sorry it's over.
I did enjoy this book. It's not really my favorite genre, but I found it intriguing nonetheless. It started off sad and then continued on a heart wrenching path. I felt sorry for Dodo, but more so the children. I would never condone Alfred's behavior, but I can see how he falls out of love with Dodo. She is weak and extremely jealous, but he gives her every reason to be. I wouldn't want a husband of mine fawning over every young maiden who comes along and criticizing me for being pregnant. I don ...more
Sian Jones
Read only if you want to study how beautifully done research can be wasted via serious narrative failures. And even then, as you study, prepare to rant aloud en route and even to holler, "Do you hate your readers, is that it, Gaynor Arnold? Criminey!"
Regina Keenan
Enjoyed a lot, though I guess is sort of a gossip book. brings dickens to life very well, and raises the age old question of why do we love people at all costs, and what price genius.
Gaynor Arnold has written this fictional first novel, about the marriage, family life and narcissism of one of the great literary figures of the Victorian period, Charles Dickens. She has created wonderful characters throughout, each one dimensional, living and breathing in the chaos of their family and worldly lives. It is a terrific read with warmly painted human beings, and skillful pacing. It is completely believable from start to finish. I could not put it down.

Dorothea Gibson (Catherine D
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this is not a book! 3 22 Jun 17, 2012 01:21AM  
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“...anticipation of happiness can sometimes be as gratifying as its consummation.” 13 likes
“As I know only too well, anticipation od happiness can sometimes be as gratifying as its consummation. Even during the first months of my separation, every footstep on the pavement would have me racing to the window, and every ring of the doorbell would set my heart beating as fast as a bird's. But as the months went by without even a word, I gradually had to relinquish my hopes of seeing him again. It was not easy to do so, and I am not sure whether I have managed it entirely; however I did stop waking with that thought in my head, imagining what he was doing every hour of the day, and whether his journey would by chance take him past my door. I tried to tell myself instead that I was fortunate in my neglect; that now I needed have no fear that he would arrive and his gimlet eye start to anatomize the cushions, or the curtains, or the state of the fireplace; that now, at last, my life was my own. But truth to tell, I would have given anything to see him walk with his jaunty step up to my front door and rap out a cheerful rhythm with his silver-topped cane.” 3 likes
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