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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 34.
- Review Date: 2009-05-25
- Reviewer: Staff
Longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize, Arnold's accomplished debut is a fictionalized take on the tumultuous marriage of Charles and Catherine Dickens. On the day of famed writer Alfred Gibson's public funeral, his estranged widow, Dorothea (Dodo), sits alone in her small London apartment, reminiscing about “the One and Only.” Although caring deeply about his public image as a family man, Alfred's actual relationship with his brood is fraught by his egomaniacal demands and philandering, his career eclipsing everything else. Dodo wishes she could climb onto the page, become one of her husband's protagonists and cajole him to pay attention to her. After years of marriage, Alfred casts Dodo out of the family home after taking up with a mistress, publicly shaming her, and admonishing their children not to visit her. After Alfred's death, Dodo grapples with the choice of emerging from her self-imposed exile or remaining in seclusion without facing the public who revered him. Arnold's impeccable research paints an entirely different portrait of Dickens than that assumed by readers of his fiction. (July)
New takes on classic authors
They’ve been on countless reading lists over the years, and now the lives and works of three classic English writers have inspired intriguing new novels.
Syrie James’ interest in classic literature led to extensive research on beloved authors like Austen and Brontë. Though the stories resulting from her studies aren’t quite nonfiction, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë
is based on fact. James adapts Brontë’s voice, telling Brontë’s story as though it came straight from the great writer. Living with an alcoholic, drug-addicted brother and a deeply eccentric father, Brontë—and her sisters—still managed to write some of the most famous novels of their time. With The Secret Diaries, James offers a satisfying—if partly imagined—history of the real-life experiences that inspired Brontë’s classic novels.
In Girl in a Blue Dress, Gaynor Arnold weaves a narrative based closely on the real-life marriage of Charles and Catherine Dickens. Estranged at the time of Dickens’ death, Catherine left a collection of letters she had received from Charles over the years, so that the world would know the truth about her role in his life. In Arnold’s account, the great writer Alfred Gibson is dead. After 20 years of marriage, Dorothea Gibson is excluded from her husband’s passing and his will. Through recollections of their history together and dealing with the aftermath of his death, Dorothea finally faces the hard truths of being married to her generation’s most beloved writer. Though we’ll never know for sure what went on in the Dickens’ marriage, this fictional account helps us to better understand the woman behind the talented man.
Courtney Stone, a self-proclaimed Jane Austen addict, was mysteriously transported to the early 19th century in Laurie Viera Rigler’s debut, Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict. In that book, Courtney traded places with English girl Jane Mansfield, and was abruptly forced to abandon her modern ways and adapt to the life of a lady in 1800s England. In Rude Awakenings of a Jane Austen Addict, Jane awakens in Courtney’s 21st-century American life, completing Viera Rigler’s clever switch-a-roo. As Jane aims to untangle Courtney’s problems and understand modern society, she finds that the girls and their time periods aren’t as different as they may seem.