Aug 13, 12
Read in August, 2012
British non-fiction writer Kate Summerscale presents the tragic 19th Century tale of Isabella Robinson, one of the first women to be sued for divorce in Victorian England. Isabella was intelligent and intellectually engaged. She had a fierce longing for love and writing talent. I'm glad that Ms. Summerscale took notice of her place in British legal history and researched it so scrupulously. Her delicate study of the divorce suit and of the personalities involed took me back to Isabella's time. I'm grateful for this. Most of all, Summerscale's well-told tale led me to care about Isabella. The diary entries that got her into so much expensive and terrible trouble, it seems to me, were a complex bid for love. Isabella wanted to cherish whatever love she could find in her experience and to find that love again in her diary pages. Was she a selfish dilletante? Yes! But her marriage was sad and her husband was brutal. Her quest to protect those who might have been harmed by her private words redeemed her in my eyes. I'm glad I didn't know her fate until the last page of this fairly quick read so I won't reveal what happened here. Isabella's story has a special resonnance that I'm still pondering. It relates to our age of lost privacy. People haven't changed. There are still cruel people like Henry Robinson. Do they have more power now?