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Fred and Edie Paperback – 15 Mar 2001

19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Sceptre; New edition edition (15 Mar. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0340751673
  • ISBN-13: 978-0340751671
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 992,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jill Dawson is the author of TRICK OF THE LIGHT, MAGPIE, FRED AND EDIE, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Novel Award and the Orange Prize, WILD BOY, WATCH ME DISAPPEAR, which was longlisted for the Orange Prize, and THE GREAT LOVER, a Richard & Judy Summer Read. In addition she has edited six anthologies of short stories and poetry.

Born in Durham, Jill Dawson grew up in Yorkshire. She has held many Fellowships, including the Creative Writing Fellowship at the University of East Anglia, where she taught on the MA in Creative Writing course. In 2006 she received an honorary doctorate in recognition of her work. She lives in the Fens with her husband and two sons.

Product Description

Amazon Review

In the winter of 1922 Edith Waters and her younger lover, Freddy Bywaters, were found guilty of murdering Percy Waters, Edith's boorish husband. The two lovers were executed in a whirl of publicity in 1923. The case caused a sensation, a crime of passion that gripped the nation's imagination and became the raw material for Jill Dawson's sensual and captivating novel Fred and Edie, a fictional account of the lovers' romance and their subsequent trial, predominantly told through Edie's imaginary letters addressed to her lover, "Darlint Freddie". This is a remarkable novel, that brilliantly evokes the suburban world of 1920s London (T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, published the same year as the trial, runs like a leitmotif throughout the novel). Edie, viewed from the public gallery as "silly, vain" is a superb literary creation--sensual, intelligent, articulate and liberated, bitterly denouncing in her letters to Freddy a world that denies "that our love might be a real love, on a par with other great loves. That just because you are from Norwood and work as a ship's laundry man and I grew up in Stamford Hill and read a certain kind of novel, we are not capable of true emotions, of having feelings and experiences that matter".

Dawson's novel gradually reveals that Edie's "crime" is actually her articulate, contradictory and assertive femininity. "I am not all sweetness and light" she insists, but it is her independent behaviour that ultimately stands trial, as Freddy becomes an increasingly enigmatic and questionable figure on the margins of the novel. Elegantly written and carefully researched, Fred and Edie is as passionate and assured as the tragic heroine it portrays. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Jill Dawson's novel about the famous Thompson and Bywaters murder trial makes compelling reading...Edie, as envisaged here, is a latter-day Emma Bovary, whose passionate wish to live life to the full leads in the end to her destruction. Dawson has given her a hauntingly authentic voice, and imparted an edgy contemporary resonance to her story.' Christina Koning, The Times

It will captivate readers ... The real triumph of the novel is to make the fictionalised truth sound utterly convincing - a case of fiction not so much stranger as stronger than fact. Edie is so wonderful, so bitterly honest about herself, especially her understanding of her own sensual nature. And the sex is beautifully written about. Jill Dawson magnificently gets into the woman's skin and makes the whole act sublime (Margaret Forster)

Jill Dawson's deft ability to map the territory of the heart, as well as the head, lends grace and conviction to this fictionalised version of a true story. FRED AND EDIE is a captivating account of a strangely impassioned, and compelling, love affair (Caryl Phillips)

A riveting story, not so much because of its tragic dimensions, but

because of the remarkable degree to which Edie rises from the page to tell

her tortured tale

(Kirkus (starred review))

compelling reading (The Times)

Gripping ... an engrossing, passionate and tragic story (Daily Mail)

A haunting exploration of female desire and the tragic consequences when it finds itself repressed and thwarted. (Sunday Times)

A moving testimony to the desperation of unrequited love (The Times)

See all Product Description

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Love Books VINE VOICE on 8 May 2008
Format: Paperback
From the moment you start to read Edie's letters from prison to her lover Fred (who has murdered her husband), there's a dreadful feeling that she's not going to have the happy ending she keeps predicting. The way Edie constantly forgives her young lover for his crime combined with her gentle tellings-off, are incredibly poignant. Fred is very young and there is a sense that he does not understand how marriages work or what Edie really wanted. All this is very cleverly conveyed via Edie's letters.

I absolutely loved this book, it's beautifully written and I was captivated by Edie and Fred and their love affair from the beginning to the tragic, but inevitable end. It prompted me to research the real story of Edith Thompson and Fred Bywaters and in this case truth really is stranger and even more sad than fiction. The only reason I didn't give the book five stars is that in real life Fred was incredibly loyal to Edie, and a victim of her fantasies, whereas in the book you get the impression that he was a bit weak and selfish and I don't think he deserves that.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By on 18 Dec. 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Fred & Edie Jill Dawson performs two bits of contradictory magic. She shows that, at the centre of all extraordinary events, are ordinary people, like you or I; and that ordinary people, like you or I, are nevertheless extraordinary.
Edie, the novel's narrator (who was executed, with Freddy Bywaters, her lover, for the murder of her husband in 1923), is both utterly compelling and utterly authentic, so that it comes as a real surprise, to stumble on the end notes and find that Jill Dawson has used so little material from her actual letters and woven them so seamlessly into a voice which is almost pure invention.
And this is one of the things which makes the novel works so well. Though the story was widely written about at the time, Jill Dawson uses only a few scattered details of historical research (a handful of newspaper reports, a parlour game, a dress, a Punch and Judy show...) and concentrates on getting inside the mind of this sensual, adventurous, excitable woman trapped in a loveless suburban marriage.
She is particularly good at describing (through Edie's voice) the prickly, restless discomfort of sexual desire and the act of sex itself, two areas where most novels are either embarrassing or clumsy.
Most readers seem to have taken the book as an indictment of the system that executed Edith Thompson and assumed that she was innocent of her husband's murder (which she may well have been). But the novel is subtler than this. The Edie that Jill Dawson has recreated is capable of great self-awareness, but she is also capable of great self-deception (we know, long before she does, that the dangling black shape she keeps seeing out of the corner of her eye is the hangman's noose).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. L. Najduch on 18 Jan. 2007
Format: Paperback
Follows the trial of Edith Thompson and Fred Bywaters, both accused of the murder of Thompson's husband. Dawson writes Thompson so beautifully, giving her every sense of emotion that a woman in love has. Using excerts from Edie's own letters to Fred, it makes for compelling reading. There is passion in her writing and the description of Fred and Edies sexual encounters sizzle from the page with passion, yet reel you into the emotion and love that they had for each other. As a reader you are gripped right up until the end when your heart sinks as you turn the last pages and feel the pain and sadness that Edie went through having been a victim of the British Justice system and indeed of her time. Dawson does an exellent job in making you relate to Edie's desperation and foolishness. Her story will stay with you for some time. A recommended novel for anyone wishing to be gripped once more by literature.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 18 Sept. 2000
Format: Hardcover
Fred and Edie is a moving account of how a woman's sexual transgressions ended with her being one of the last women to be hanged in Britain. The fact that this novel is based on real events makes this story all the more poignant and will make you reel at the injustice of our legal system which is skewed against women who don't know their place.
Although Edie knows nothing about her lover's intention to kill her violent husband she is none the less convicted on the basis of her damaging love letters, by her transgression of sexual mores and by a paternalistic judicial system.
Fred and Edie will make you cry at the unfairness of our brutal history while reminding you that people are still murdered every day by the very states that are supposed to care for them.
A beautifully written and unbearably sad book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Mrs. Sarah Turnham on 8 Aug. 2007
Format: Paperback
I read this book after reading "A pin to see the peepshow" which was written in 1934. Jill Dawson uses extracts from newspaper articles from the trial in 1922, after the murder of Edith Thompson's husband by her lover Frederick Bywaters. This book is beautifully written and I felt that Edie really came to life on the page; she was a vain and passionate woman who escaped from her humdrum marriage by reading romantic fiction and writing dramatic letters to her lover, Bywaters, whilst he was away at sea. Did Edie tempt her much younger lover to commit murder ? The judge and jury certainly thought so and she, along with Bywaters was condemned to death. Her execution was horrific and stories of her being pregnant and her 'insides falling out' started immediately. Jill Dawson's book is a joy and I recommend to anyone that loves a love story, or has an interest in social history.
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