Donna's Reviews > Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale
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's review
Jul 22, 2012

really liked it
bookshelves: nonfiction
Read in July, 2012

Another Mrs. Robinson...another sexual escapade, only this one is not begun with "plastics" but with the lonely life of a Victorian woman's misalliance. The widowed Isabella marries Henry who is not only mean, but unable to fulfill her sexual needs (or maybe her sexual needs are extreme; remember this is Victorian England). Isabella seems to "fall in love" with every young man who crosses her path, and moreover keeps a diary detailing all of her feelings and desires. Her diary does indicate a strong emotional reporting of "something" with her favorite young doctor, but was this criminal adultery?

In 1857 Parliament passes the new Divorce Law making divorce possible for all, although it is easier for a man to sue for divorce than a woman. Nonetheless, this is a huge step forward for women's rights in allowing them a legal exit from an abusive marriage. The case of Robinson v. Robinson is one of the first heard in the new divorce court.

While the book starts out a bit slowly, it records Isabella's life as she details it in her diary. As is usual in books about the upper class in Victorian England, one meets many familiar people: Charles Darwin partakes of the "water cure" at the same facility as Isabella. I enjoyed Part II -- the divorce trial -- better than Part I, but that could be because of my interest in law.

I adored Summerscale's "The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher" and this nearly meets that standard. Perhaps I just enjoy murder mysteries better than divorce cases. For an interesting slice of Victorian life, I recommend this book.
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message 1: by Rowena (new)

Rowena Sounds very interesting!

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