Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Sealed Letter

The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

Read this on my Kindle while away in the Lake District. It's set in the 1860s, at a time when some women were just beginning to campaign for their rights, and when divorce had just been made a little easier, but was heavily weighted in favour of the husband. It's based on the true story of the Codrington divorce case as reported in the newspapers of the time.

Emily Faithfull, known as Fido to her friends, bumps into her old friend Helen Codrington. Fido is, we eventually realise, in love with Helen. Helen is glamourous, pretty and charming, and all to ready to use people for her own good. She's unhappy in her marriage and ropes Fido into colluding with her in her affair with a young army officer. When her husband finds out, he wants a divorce. He takes the children - in those days, the children almost always stayed with the father. Helen dupes Fido into lying to her solicitor about an episode which could form the basis of Helen's defence in court. The mysterious sealed letter of the title was presented in court by Helen's husband.

This book is written in 3rd person present tense which is not my favourite form, and didn't feel quite right for a historical novel. However after a while you stop noticing it. I enjoyed the book - especially as it was based on a true story. I love seeing what different writers can do, turning facts into fiction. The characterisation was excellent and the story moved along at a good pace.

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