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Belle: The True Story of Dido Belle

3.8 out of 5 stars 96 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Audio CD
  • Publisher: William Collins; Unabridged edition edition (8 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007565755
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007565757
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)

Product Description

Review

Praise for film previews of ‘Belle’:

‘A lovely, female-centric romance that completely reinvents the period movie in a way that will resound for quite some time’ Empire

‘Elegant and emotionally satisfying … this handsome period piece tells a continually fascinating, unusually layered story’ Variety

Praise for Paula Byrne’s ‘The Real Jane Austen’:

‘The portrait of Austen that emerges is sparklingly multi-faceted, catching the light in intriguing ways … her Jane is far less likely to go for a quiet walk in the garden than she is to be whisked into town in search of a velvet cushion, a necklace or a smart new dress’ Mail on Sunday

‘Engaging, compelling, a delightful and engrossing book. Of course we all know that the "real" Jane Austen will forever be a mystery, but most 21st century Janeites will adore this one. Byrne's passion is nothing if not persuasive’ Sunday Times

‘Brilliantly illuminating … riveting. By focusing, chapter by chapter, on one thread or another of Austen's experience, Byrne allows us to grasp the richness of her inner life’ Simon Callow, Guardian

About the Author

Paula Byrne was born in Birkenhead. Her first book, Jane Austen and the Theatre, was shortlisted for the Theatre Book Prize. Her second book, Perdita, was a Richard and Judy book-club pick and a best-seller. Both her third, Mad World:Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, and her most recent book, The Real Jane Austen, were published to rave reviews and became best-sellers. She is married to Jonathan Bate and lives in Oxford.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
That I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it in less than a day is testimony to the skill of the author. It's also testimony to the fact that it's a relatively short book and very light on detail. In truth, there is not enough here to justify calling this a biography. This is not a book about Dido herself - there is simply not enough trace of her in the historical record to write little more than a paragraph on her. And that's a shame, a real shame, because a full biography of this woman would be fascinating. Dido occupied a relatively unique position in Georgian society - a black woman, the illegitimate daughter of a slave and a naval captain, raised in luxury and privilege by the highest legal authority in the land, a man who may have been influenced by his affection for her in deciding a case that opened the door to the abolition of the slave trade.

Unfortunately, that's about all you could possibly write about Dido herself, and the real significance there is less about her and more about her relationship with Lord Mansfield. The bulk of this book, well-written as it is, explores the context of her life - the abolition movement, Lord Mansfield and his famous ruling in the Somerset case that opened the door to abolition, the abolition movement itself and the famous names like Granville Sharp and William Wilberforce. But it's not about Dido. Her story is yet another casualty of the prejudice of the day: she is all but invisible to history.

After reading this, I'll be curious to see the film based on this book - it can surely bear little relation to historical fact, simply because there is so little historical fact when it comes to Dido's life. I suspect artistic licence will have run rampant, but when has that ever stopped film-makers?
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, a lack of actual sources prevents Dido Belle's life being described in any detail whatever the title may claim. Nevertheless, Paula Byrne has produced a good general read for anyone interested in the judicial process leading to the abolition of the slave trade.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Sometimes a person doesn't leave much evidence of their existence but their influence can be felt by the events happening around them. Dido Belle is one such person.

The illegitimate daughter of an English Naval officer and a captured african slave, she could have lived her life on a Caribbean plantation but she didn't. Brought up in her father's extended family in England, she became a much loved companion to an influential judge. His life is more public and his many judgements on the subject of slavery helped to change public opinion and ban the practise in England.

Of Belle there is just one painting and a few references in censuses and correspondence. Therefore, as stated in other reviews, this isn't really a biography but more an exploration of the times and society. It is a really fascinating story of a unique woman.
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Format: Paperback
With the new film directed by Amma Asante just starting to trickle into cinemas, I picked this up from my local library to delve into the story that inspired the film. Paula Byrne charts the rise of William Murray, 1st Earl Mansfield and tells the incredible story of his adopted niece, Dido Elizabeth Belle using well detailed research and contemporary case studies to paint the picture of her little know life. The book also provides excellent background knowledge and context of the eighteenth century and abolition movement, which is something I wasn't too familiar with but found fascinating. An excellent read for anyone interested in eighteenth century social history...I enjoyed this very much!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Seems like you are reading a book for O'level. I thought I was learning about Belle but haven't yet had her story. Haven't finished it but not sure if I will. Facts are fired at you about the slave trade, which we all know about, and lots and lots of names are fired at you without a story to hang them on. I read this for book club and will not give it a good review.
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This book is for those of you who like to seep there reading in historical fact. For me it lacked the cohesiveness of storytelling which put the subject at the heart of the book. It seemed that the heroine was skirted around and given over to subjective speculation and conjecture. A little repetitive at times. Wanting to know more about the subject I felt rather let down by this book, however learning more about the art, law and political artefacts of the day were interesting and informative. Look forward to the film although I am glad that I have a clearer definition between fact and fantasy.
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Strange reading, why call it a "True Story of Dido Belle", when it's a good account of the life of her Uncle, the Lord Chief Justice? Might tempt more readers if there's the chance of an intriguing story?

Good, interesting account of slavery, but Dido? Her young life, pure conjecture and a brief summary of her later life.

I will be interested to see how the film interprets the book.
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I really enjoyed reading this book, however, if you are looking for romantic drama, you would be very disappointed. I found it an honest, factual account with no unevidenced suppositions from the author to shake my belief. It left me itching to follow up the facts (where this is possible) It is a very balanced account that beautifully demonstrates double standards in racial equality. Anyway, read it before you see the film. I haven't seen that yet, but I imagine that it will be a 'full-on' romantic costume drama. Somehow, I don't think that I will enjoy that half as much. I'm just about to read the book again!
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