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De verzegelde brief by Emma Donoghue
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De verzegelde brief (original 2008; edition 2012)

by Emma Donoghue, Inge Kok, Theo Scholten

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5383318,671 (3.58)117
Member:jiediebie
Title:De verzegelde brief
Authors:Emma Donoghue
Other authors:Inge Kok, Theo Scholten
Info:Amsterdam Atlas Contact 2012
Collections:Your library
Rating:****1/2
Tags:roman, Londen Victoriaans tijdperk, scheiding, vrouwenbeweging

Work details

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue (2008)

  1. 00
    Gillespie and I by Jane Harris (JoEnglish)
  2. 00
    Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale (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 (32)  Dutch (1)  All languages (33)
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
A Victorian melodrama based on the real case of the Codrington divorce that focuses on how Emily (Fido) Faithfull, a leading women's right campaigner, gets embroiled in the Codrington's divorce. An easy read that captures the double standards and intrigues of The Victorian era. ( )
  sianpr | Nov 1, 2014 |
Emily Faithfull, a leader in the early feminist movement in Victorian England, is drawn back into the life of an old friend and then becomes embroiled in her divorce case.

I didn't realize until I got to the afterword that The Sealed Letter was a historical novel about actual people and events. Learning that made the book much more interesting to me. The story is told from the points of view of the three members of a triangle, of sorts. Fido (Emily Faitfull) is an independent woman working for the Cause (women's rights) when she encounters--by chance, it seems--her old friend Helen Codrington, whom she thought cut her out of her life long ago. Fido is drawn back into friendship with Helen when she becomes an unwilling participant in the divorce case brought by her husband against her, a reluctant witness for both sides.

Because of the shifting points of view, we get to know and sympathize with all three characters, who seem caught up in a scandal that becomes much larger than themselves. While Helen is the least sympathetic, as she is clearly cheating on her husband, she is still trapped in a loveless marriage formed when she was too young to know any better, and her husband takes away her children without even allowing her a final goodbye, underscoring how few legal rights women had during this period. Fido, despite her independence and self-reliance, comes across as too naive and trusting, as well as too much in love, something she won't even admit to herself. And Henry, the husband, is ultimately a man of principle, despite his cruel actions toward his wife. There are no winners here, but the playing out of the scandal and the legal machinations are fascinating.

My main complaint is that the story takes a bit too long to get rolling, and it seems to get bogged down at several points. It took me a while to actually get involved with the characters. There is a twist at the end, but it's one that perceptive readers will see coming. I appreciated the great amount of research Donoghue must have done to bring these historical characters to life, and I enjoyed learning about a part of British history and the feminist movement that I wasn't familiar with. I will be sure to seek out more books by Donoghue.

Vacation read in 2014. ( )
  sturlington | Aug 5, 2014 |
For all the hype it's really kind of mediocre. Clinton era divorce in victorian england. It's a historical novel with all the dirty words left in. Really there wasn't much to it. Wife is a whore. Husband doesn't like it and divorces her. She enlists a spinster friend to help her out. Spinster friend isn't happy to be dragged into some sordid affair. There was a small twist at the end which no matter how frequently denied I knew was coming from about 20 pages in. Nothing was earth shattering. No character stood out as better developed. This book being based in fact just made it all the more disappointing that the characters were so 1 dimensional and uninvolved. It was like they were acting in a play instead of living their lives. I wouldn't recommend it. Leave true life to the biographers and fiction to the novelists. I don't know why I even try to read Emma Donoghue I never like her work. ( )
  sarahzilkastarke | Nov 20, 2013 |
I'd heard good things about Emma Donoghue but as her historical fiction is usually set in the Victorian period (a period I don't have much interest in) I doubted very much that I would ever read a book by her. But then, on a whim, at a sale, I picked up this one. And boy, am I glad I did as I think I've discovered a new favourite author.

On the surface this book is about a scandalous Victorian divorce case (weren't they all?!) and this one had it all; a decorated Admiral as the petitioner, a cheating wife with not one but two lovers, men under the Admiral's command named as co-respondents, hints of assignations and sex in 'exotic' locations, accusations of attempted rape, a well known early feminist as a witness for the defence, disappearance of said witness, and hints of 'unnatural' acts (lesbianism). The sensationalist press of the time had a field day and the retelling of the story makes for a compelling and page turning read. But the story Ms Donoghue tells goes much deeper than that, and it is as involved and as complex as human nature itself and the strict societal mores of the time.

Donoghue uses the scant historical source materials (court documents, newspaper reports and a handful of personal letters) to good effect and weaves them into a very human and thought provoking tale. There's no right and wrong or winners and losers in this, but lots of shades and shadows. Lies and hypocrisy abound especially during the trial. It certainly made me very grateful that I live in a time and a country of 'no fault' divorce and that our Family Law Court is there ostensibly to look after the welfare of the children involved.

Some reviewers have said they were disappointed by the ending but I loved it. There are two nice twists in the tail which I felt added much to the story and a lot of meaning to the undercurrent stuff. The author had some good points to make and it made me consider the old 'double standard' from an entirely new perspective, even amoung women and feminists. The early feminists had much to learn about what real equality meant, as arguably we still do today.

An enjoyable buddy read with Anna who made it even better by indulging in some pretty wild speculation :-). ( )
  jemidar | Apr 15, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 32 (next | show all)
In 1864, divorce was still rare in Britain (as elsewhere), and the real one that Emma Donoghue forensically reconstructs in her new novel was a national scandal. The wronged vice-admiral Henry Codrington and his sexually predacious wife were already magnets for the prurient. Add in, as a witness to the case, the famous feminist Emily Faithfull and veiled hints of lesbianism, and public horror knew no bounds.

Donoghue recreates grim 19th-century London – relieved by whiffs of exotic Malta – with vividness and authority....What could have been mere Victorian melodrama resonates here with emotional truth.
 
As with Donoghue's previous novels "Slammerkin" and "Life Mask," the plot is psychologically informed, fast paced and eminently readable (it compresses the timeline of actual events). Yet some narrative elements borrow too much from the 19th century. Exposition often comes packaged in dialogue, where it sounds artificial:....Good lines there are in abundance. And in the end, "The Sealed Letter" provides both the titillating entertainment readers like Helen and Fido crave and the more sober exploration of truth, commitment and betrayal Harry might appreciate. Donoghue's sympathy for all three of her central characters emerges through intimate narration and lifts the novel out of the tabloid muck, despite the public shaming Harry, Helen and Fido experience. There is, as Fido puts it, "so much to say, and little of it speakable."
 
Briskly written, deftly plotted and nicely ironic, The Sealed Letter falters only in the absolute gratuitousness of some of its period detail.... Some of the slang, too, looks a touch anachronistic. "Deb" is at least 60 years before its time. And would a well-bred woman of the 1860s talk about someone "walking out" of their marriage? None of this in the least detracts from the bounce and sparkle of The Sealed Letter's narrative line.
 
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Epigraph
Every woman should be free to support herself by the use of whatever faculties God has given her.

Emily Faithful, Letter to the English Woman's Journal, Sept. 1862
Dedication
Dedicated with love to my old friends

Grainne Ni Dhuill and Debra Westgate
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The last day of August, and the sky is the colour of hot ash.
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Book description
MISS EMILY 'FIDO' FAITHFULL is a woman ahead of her times, running her own printing press in Victorian London. She is distracted from her work by the sudden return of her once dear friend, the unhappily wed Helen Codrington. Before she knows it, Fido is swept up in the intimate details of Helen's failing marriage and obsessive affair with a young army officer.

What begins as a loyal effort to help a friend explodes into a courtroom drama muckier than any Hollywood tabloid could invent - complete with stained clothing, accusations of adultery, counterclaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy more than one life.

Based on a scandalous divorce case that gripped England in 1864, The Sealed Letter is a compelling and provocative drama of friends, lovers, and divorce, Victorian style.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0547247761, Paperback)

Miss Emily "Fido" Faithfull is a "woman of business" and a spinster pioneer in the British women’s movement, independent of mind but naively trusting of heart. Distracted from her cause by the sudden return of a once-dear friend, the unhappily wed Helen Codrington, Fido is swept up in the intimate details of Helen’s failing marriage and obsessive affair with a young army officer. What begins as a loyal effort to help a friend explodes into an intriguing courtroom drama complete with accusations of adultery, counterclaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy more than one life.

Based on a scandalous divorce case that gripped England in 1864, The Sealed Letter is a riveting, provocative drama of friends, lovers, and divorce, Victorian-style.

 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Emily "Fido" Faithfull, a spinster pioneer in the British women's movement, is distracted from her cause by the details of her friend's failing marriage and affair with a young army officer, in this drama of friends, lovers, and divorce, Victorian style.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 5 descriptions

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