- Hardcover: 396 pages
- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P; 1 edition (22 Sept. 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 015101549X
- ISBN-13: 978-0151015498
- Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 2.4 x 22.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,336,965 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Sealed Letter Hardcover – 22 Sep 2008
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Praise for THE SEALED LETTER: "Donoghue weaves an engrossing and... quite funny melodrama about a bad, bad girl who bursts the seams of this corseted world... part "Forever Amber" and part clockwork courtroom drama, with bawdy undercurrents of forbidden love thrown in for good measure. All in all, a deliciously wicked little romp, complete with a clever twist at the end." -- "The Seattle Times""Emma Donoghue's triangle of real-life protagonists presents us with a quintessentially Victorian tableau...mid-Victorian London feels so real you can almost taste it." -- "Washington Post Book World""A fascinating tour de force, a brilliant unraveling of closely held secrets and brutal betrayals...A case of Dangerous Liaisons with yet another layer of Victorian outrage." -curledupwithagoodbook.com"Donoghue blends a true case and period detail into an intriguing tale of mystery and passion."--"The Oregonian""Donoghue recreates grim 19th-century London -- relieved by whiffs of exotic M --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the bestselling author of Room comes a delicious tale of secrets, betrayal and forbidden love --This text refers to the Paperback edition.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
Helen Codrington is a wife and mother, born and bred abroad, who craves some excitement in her life. Never thinking of what might happen, she embarks on an affair with Captain David Anderson. Late in the summer of 1864, Helen runs into her old friend Emily "Fido" Faithfull, a crusader for women's rights, who's surprisingly... conventional, all things considered. When Harry Codrington finds out about Helen's affair, however, the lives of these three characters change drastically. The novel's point of view vacillates between Helen, Fido, and Harry.
It's a stunning, well-written book, which explores the way in which lies affect the lives of each of these characters. It's also a fair representation of mid-Victorian mores; although it's tough for us today to understand, divorce was much, much more scandalous and socially crippling in an era that placed a focus on the family and the woman's role in that family. It's strange, too, to a modern reader, the laws that governed divorce in the 19th century (for example, the two primaries were prohibited from testifying). Each of the characters is well-written, and Donoghue gets into the minds of each of the main characters with ease. She never tries to infuse this book with a modern sensibility.Read more ›
The characters are well drawn and clear - beautiful but manipulative Helen, plain but honest Fido Faithful who runs several businesses but is often gullible, and Admiral Harry Codrington, a modern, impeccably behaved man but dry and dull. The latter comes over as a little wooden perhaps.
The plot is constructed around the legal process with a succession of denouements via flashbacks; this is well written but predictable - the reader knows the end point so the interest has to be kept up via the characters development - Fido's betrayal and sexual identity and Helen's bravado.
I enjoyed the Victorian details but feel the novel lacks energy in places; the legal machinery perhaps turns too slowly for the pace of the novel.
The novel opens with Fido meeting an old friend, long missed, on Farringdon Street, near her place of work, for she is a modern, financially independent woman. They seem an unlikely pair - one a blue stocking, the other a bored and somewhat reckless married woman - but we learn they were once intimates and their friendship resumes as Fido in drawn into her friend's romantic affairs. Before long we are drawn into a scandalous court case for adultery, in which Fido is a key witness.
Emma Donoghue has made this type of historical fiction her own. The court scenes are gripping, her sensory descriptions transport us into her imagined London and her research is worn lightly. I found the novel very readable and fascinating on the early women's movement and the court case with it sealed letter is completely gripping.
It is a well-balanced, methodical and carefully written novel based on true events with plenty of subtle humour and a wealth of period detail.
The unfolding drama around Helens infidelity drags Fido into the case and threatens the womens movement, who cannot afford to be involved in such a scandalous case.
The books real joy is the way it made me empathise with all the parties, they are not portrayed as black and white but in a nuanced and sympathetic way that leaves you hoping that they can sort out there issues in a more civilised way.
It was a surprise and a delight.
Historically, there is much of interest - in fact, I found the Author's Note at the end fascinating, unlike much of the narrative! But this should not be the case, surely, in a work of historical fiction. (- And isn't always - contrast My Dear I Wanted to Tell You by Louisa Young, which I also read recently and thoroughly enjoyed.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Quite a dark novel all in all. An usual subject, well written and based loosely on historical events with name changes and additions.Published 8 days ago by Suzan Hutchinson
A story set in the mid nineteenth century and based of the actual case of the scandalous divorce of a high ranking naval officer Henry Codrington and his wife Helen. Read morePublished 29 days ago by David H J Ashdown
An excellent, well-written novel. The characters, although not always likeable, are well-drawn and easy to empathise with. The story flows quickly and moves along at a good pace. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Sara E
This book moves at a steady quite slow pace, once you get into that pace it is a brilliant read. It is the first book by this author I have read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Read morePublished 7 months ago by JulieC
I am struggling, actually really struggling with this book. I bought it based on previous books she wrote and I love historical fiction but it is tedious. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Vanessa
I have long found Emma Donoghue a fascinating writer, ever since reading Slammerkin, and jumped at the chance to listen to this novel about a Victorian scandal on audio. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Finakilly
Based very closely on a case that went to the Divorce Courts in the mid 1800s, this novel explores the beginning of the women’s movement using a case that caused an outrageous... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Eileen Shaw