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Mrs Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

Mrs Robinson's Disgrace (edition 2012)

by Kate Summerscale

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4583322,714 (3.51)57
Title:Mrs Robinson's Disgrace
Authors:Kate Summerscale
Info:Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (2012), Edition: Export/Airside ed, Paperback

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Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale

  1. 10
    The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (GCPLreader, souloftherose)
    souloftherose: Kate Summerscale's book, Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, covers the details of an historical divorce case reference in Donoghue's historical novel. Donoghue's novel is a fictionalised account of an historical divorce case of a similar sort to the one covered by Summerscale's book.… (more)

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English (30)  Dutch (2)  French (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (34)
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
In Mrs Robinson's Disgrace, Kate Summerscale explores a high profile 19th-century court case, just after England passed laws permitting married couples to divorce. Isabella Robinson's husband Henry brought the case against her, using her diary as the chief source of evidence. But how reliable was her account? By 21st-century standards, she was the victim -- her crime being that of seeking companionship and sexual satisfaction not possible in her loveless marriage. But the laws and culture stigmatized women who expressed desires, and the public was shocked by her wanton behavior.

This specific divorce case was an interesting way to shed light on one aspect of women's rights in the Victorian era, and it also described how divorce laws evolved during the time it was working its way through the courts. The book lacked the suspense of Summerscale's previous book, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, which read much like a true crime novel. As a result, Mrs Robinson's Disgrace was not quite as captivating, but still a passably interesting way to learn about this period in history. ( )
1 vote lauralkeet | Feb 16, 2015 |
A well-researched microhistorical take on a particular divorce case in Victorian England, featuring Isabella Robinson and her salacious diary. Summerscale uses the case study to excellent effect, and the book is very readable and interesting as it delves into not only the specific case, but also the English ways of divorce, diary-writing, hydrotherapy, &c. ( )
  JBD1 | Dec 7, 2014 |
I found this a little hard to get through at times but it was still interesting to read about one of the first women in England to be sued for divorce. ( )
  reigningstars | Dec 4, 2014 |
Fascinating read! Quite an interesting look into the life of a Victorian Lady. Not necessarily an idyllic vision but certainly more accurate than most fictional accounts of the time. ( )
  elizabeth.b.bevins | Nov 4, 2014 |
I knew of Kate Summerscale from her book, The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. This book is about a Victorian woman, Isabella Robinson, and how her private diary was used by her husband to prosecute a divorce.

The Robinsons, Henry and Isabella, are an upper middle class family. Isabella meets Edward Lane and writes in her diary about how attracted she is to him. They take evening walks together and have several encounters that are vaguely but romantically described and may imply that they actually have sex. Or maybe not. But probably.

So when Isabella gets sick, her husband Henry reads the diary and then decides to use it to attain a divorce. In the end, the divorce is not granted (well, not this trial of it - they later get a divorce based on a subsequent affair) but the book becomes about so much more than this one couple's experience. Summerscale uses their loveless marriage to explore women's issues such as the comical beliefs (at least from this remove) around sexual appetites and what they mean - usually that if you have any interest in sex you're insane or have some sort of uterine disease. This is certainly the belief about women, but extends to men at least a bit as well. Summerscale also details the changing divorce laws. The Robinsons were one of the first couples heard in a new divorce court which loosened the rules for granting a divorce and made is much less expensive. By the way, no one cared that Henry had been cheating on Isabella for basically their whole marriage, even fathering several illegitimate children. Also, much of the diary was published in the newspapers leading to discussions of journaling in the Victorian era, both in fiction and in the life of everyday women. Imagine, though, having your private journal which may or may not have been entirely true but certainly involved real people that you saw on a daily basis published for all to see. Isabella used her diary as her defense though. Instead of trying to prove that she didn't have an affair, she tried to claim insanity through her diary. Her sexual yearnings were proof in the Victorian era that she was insane.

Overall, I found this book very entertaining but it made me glad I wasn't a Victorian era woman. ( )
2 vote japaul22 | Oct 16, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Yes, on the surface of it, Kate Summerscale's new book is a straightforward account of misplaced love and misguided betrayal. Like her award-winning The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, it blows the dust off long-forgotten people and events, and sees in them the seeds of literary inspiration. If Mr Whicher was a model for writers of detective stories from Wilkie Collins on, Mrs Robinson is a real-life Lady Isabel Carlyle, the sexually obsessed wife in Mrs Henry Wood's 1861 bestseller, East Lynne. (She also resembles, as her publisher trumpets, Emma Bovary, though she surely wasn't that character's inspiration: the dates don't tally.) But Mrs Robinson's Disgrace is also a vast section of Victorian thought in microcosm, a breathtaking achievement its author pulls off almost casually in (discounting her extensive notes and bibliography) 226 scant pages.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 140881241X, Diary)

From the number one bestselling, multi-award-winning author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher comes a brand new true story of Victorian scandal On a mild winter's evening in 1850, Isabella Robinson set out for a party. Her carriage bumped across the wide cobbled streets of Edinburgh's Georgian New Town and drew up at 8 Royal Circus, a grand sandstone terrace lit by gas lamps. The guests were gathered in the high, airy drawing rooms on the first floor, the ladies in glinting silk and satin pulled tight over boned corsets; the gentlemen in tailcoats, waistcoats and neckties. When Mrs Robinson joined the throng she was at once enchanted by a Mr Edward Lane, a handsome medical student ten years her junior. He was 'fascinating', she told her diary, before chastising herself for being so susceptible to a man's charms. But a wish had taken hold of her, which she was to find hard to shake...

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:47 -0400)

Traces the story of a scandalous trial that rocked Victorian England, describing how Isabella Robinson recorded sexual fantasies in her private diary, which was discovered and read by her husband, who petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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