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The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens
 
 

The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens [Kindle Edition]

Claire Tomalin
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

This is the story of someone who - almost - wasn't there; who vanished into thin air. Her names, dates, family and experiences very nearly disappeared from the record for good...' Claire Tomalin's multi-award-winning story of the life of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens is a remarkable work of biography and historical revisionism. It not only returns the neglected actress to her rightful place in history, but provides a compelling and truthful portrait of the great Victorian novelist. A biography of high scholarship and compelling detective work' Melvyn Bragg, Independent.

About the Author

Claire Tomalin was born in London in 1933. She has worked in publishing and journalism all her life, becoming literary editor first of the New Statesman and then of the Sunday Times, which she left in 1986. She is the author of, among other books: The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft; Shelley and His World Katherine Mansfield: A Secret Life; The Invisible Woman and the extraordinarily successful biography of Samuel Pepys. Other books written for Penguin are: Jane Austen: A Life and a collection of memoirs entitled Several Strangers.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 26407 KB
  • Print Length: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; Rev Ed edition (25 Mar 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI972U
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #11,274 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
By S. J. Williams TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is an account of the woman with whom Dickens had an intimate relationship for over a decade, though the ranks of family and other supporters sought to hide the fact from the what would have been a scandalised and disapproving world.

Tomalin's book is a fascinating and multi-faceted read. The lengthy background to the Ternan family allows for a really interesting exploration of the theatrical world of the nineteenth-century. This is brilliantly dovetailed into an exploration of the ambivalence of an actress's social position at that time and of women generally. Dickens' own lifelong pre-occupation with and delight in theatre (he longed to run one and was an enthusiastic amateur actor) is central to the narrative, while the position of women is cleverly elaborated through the way Tomalin explores the highly problematic nature of Dickens representation of them within his work through the prism of his relationship with actress Nelly.

Dickens emerges badly and the author does not gloss over his cruelties and selfishness. The modern reader is less shocked by his having had a mistress than by his almost megalomaniacal determination to keep the skeleton right at the back of the cupboard, a determination which leads to cruelties one associates more with a Steerforth than his creator.

Yet Tomalin is not a narrowly moralistic writer. She recognises the psychological struggles taking place out of sight, and that the awfulness of Dickens' behaviour at this point in his life does not obliterate his history of generosity and kindness, his energetic exposure of the ills of the society he lived in and active fight against many of them.
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81 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The secret life of Dickens 1 Nov 2000
By Lynette Baines VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
Claire Tomalin's biographies often reveal (or rescue) the life of a woman who lived on the margins of society. Her ability to rediscover these lives is amazing. Ellen Ternan is one such woman. She was a member of a family of actors in Victorian England, who had a long, secret relationship with the most popular novellist of the day, Charles Dickens. Tomalin describes the world of the theatre (which was not considered respectable), the limited choices for Ellen and her sisters, and the impossible position Ellen was in as Dickens' mistress. Ellen was invisible to respectable society, and to posterity, because Dickens couldn't marry her. Dickens' dreadful behaviour to his wife, Catherine, is also detailed here This is a fascinating story for anyone interested in Victorian society and the ambiguous position of women living on the margins.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
By Sensible Cat VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I came to this after ploughing through Peter Ackroyd's biography of Dickens, intrigued by the shadowy figure of Nelly Ternan and her possible inolvement in Dickens' appalling behaviour concerning the break-up of his marriage. Tomalin has done an impressive job teasing out a story that was never intended to be revealed, and probably never will be in its entirity. Though she refuses to be drawn into speculation, she builds a convincing case for the probability that Dickens did pursue a serious, long-term affair with Nelly, that they may well have had at least one child and, perhaps most controversial of all, that his friends and his family closed ranks to conceal the fact that he was with her on the day he died.

But the book isn't just about Dickens. It takes you deep into the the alluring yet harsh world inhabited by "theatricals", despised and feared by respectable society, and whatever prejudices you begin the book with are likely to be challenged before you reach the final page. Tomalin is to be congratulated for bringing to life a woman who clearly brought Dickens comfort and joy as well as guilt and anguish and showed a remarkable dignity, independence and capacity for self-reinvention.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not so great expectations 8 Oct 2008
By Dr. Robert A. Josey VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I read this book shortly after finishing Ackroyd's 'Dickens' (1990 version). Tomalin's findings give a extra, sharper slant on that biography. Particularly the depiction of Dickens' death.

The accumulation of research and detective work go a long way to casting light on the elusive relationship between Nelly Ternan and the most famous English novelist of the 19th century.

It is eventually a sad - but all too human - story. And it did make me reassess Dickens' heroines and his approach to women in general. I agree with the author that Estella (from 'Great Expectations') is his most alluring female character.

Claire Tomalin has written a clear sighted, carefully outlined and moving/rather troubling history here. It certainly deserves all the critical plaudits it has recieved. I now look forward to reading her book on Thomas Hardy.
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Was this review helpful to you?
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By S. J. Williams TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is an account of the woman with whom Dickens had an intimate relationship for over a decade, though the ranks of family and other supporters sought to hide the fact from the what would have been a scandalised and disapproving world.

Tomalin's book is a fascinating and multi-faceted read. The lengthy background to the Ternan family allows for a really interesting exploration of the theatrical world of the nineteenth-century. This is brilliantly dovetailed into an exploration of the ambivalence of an actress's social position at that time and of women generally. Dickens' own lifelong pre-occupation with and delight in theatre (he longed to run one and was an enthusiastic amateur actor) is central to the narrative, while the position of women is cleverly elaborated through the way Tomalin explores the highly problematic nature of Dickens representation of them within his work through the prism of his relationship with actress Nelly.

Dickens emerges badly and the author does not gloss over his cruelties and selfishness. The modern reader is less shocked by his having had a mistress than by his almost megalomaniacal determination to keep the skeleton right at the back of the cupboard, a determination which leads to cruelties one associates more with a Steerforth than his creator.

Yet Tomalin is not a narrowly moralistic writer. She recognises the psychological struggles taking place out of sight, and that the awfulness of Dickens' behaviour at this point in his life does not obliterate his history of generosity and kindness, his energetic exposure of the ills of the society he lived in and active fight against many of them.
Read more ›
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent work as usual by Claire Tomalin
What a complete stinker Mr. Dickens was. Well, no not really, he did so much for so many in his sphere, how shocking to read of his vile treatment of his poor worn out wife. Read more
Published 8 days ago by Linty B
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing compared to Clare Tomalin's other biographies
Nelly Ternan was too shadowy a figure to merit a biography. The book was a rather dull list of possible sightings and movements and none of the characters seemed to have any flesh... Read more
Published 15 days ago by Mrs. Caroline Carne
5.0 out of 5 stars very good and well written
useful for Dickens researchers and fans, leads on to many other titles, background to literary heroes. Part of my Dickens library
Published 17 days ago by mary
3.0 out of 5 stars some bad typing errors
some bad typing errors, I have just found 5 on one page, very poor in that respect, spoils the reading
Published 18 days ago by R. R. Jerrard
5.0 out of 5 stars Another Tomalin Tour de Force
After tackling an exciting and illuminating biography of Jane Austen, about whom virtually no records exist, Tomalin has now taken on the long-time lover of Charles Dickens. Read more
Published 28 days ago by Ms. V. Barker
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Insights into Dickens
Cahrles Dickens was enormously popular both here and in the U.S, but few members of the public knew about his double life, his cynical and relatively uncaring attitude to real... Read more
Published 28 days ago by Revisita
5.0 out of 5 stars Great story but poor quality Kindle version.
Well researched, beautifully written. A fascinating account, not only of Dickens's relationship with Nelly but what it was like to grow up in an acting family in the 19th century. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Henry
4.0 out of 5 stars The Invisible Woman
I had previously read her book on Pepys which I didn't particularly like so was not expecting to like this one but I did. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Avril
4.0 out of 5 stars Absorbing read.
Well researched, fascinating females. The Ternan sisters were women born out of their time. I wonder what the film is like?
Published 1 month ago by Diver Jane
5.0 out of 5 stars Dickens does not emerge from this story with much dignity or honour...
What a fascinating, intriguing story that was almost lost to history! This is biography of the very best kind, reconstructing Nelly Ternan's life from just snippets and fragments,... Read more
Published 1 month ago by C. Ball
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