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Mrs Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady Paperback – 14 Mar 2013

3.4 out of 5 stars 135 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks; New Edition edition (14 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408831244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408831243
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (135 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 63,788 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Simply superb (Alexandra Harris Guardian)

Extraordinary (Phillipa Gregory Daily Telegraph)

Like her previous book, I was hooked after the first few pages. It's as good as non-fiction could possibly get (Victoria Hislop Daily Mail)

Grippingly suspenseful ... Mrs Robinson's Disgrace displays a scalpel-sharp investigative mind, and it vividly conveys the immediate surroundings of the case, from the stench of the polluted Thames infiltrating Westminster Hall to the degradations of Victorian marriage, as evidenced in contemporary divorce cases (John Carey Sunday Times)

Summerscale strikes nonfiction gold for the third time (Daneet Steffens Independent on Sunday)

Summerscale's brilliance lies not only in recognising the power of a particular story, but in charting, with beautiful precision, its strange echoes and reverberations

(Craig Brown Mail on Sunday)

I'm all admiration: she has turned a sepia photograph, curling and tattered, into a film that runs through the mind in glorious and unimpeachable Technicolor

(Rachel Cooke Observer)

Mesmerising (Boyd Tonkin Independent)

Told with dazzling detail and exquisite tenderness, this non-fiction tale reads like a perfect novel (Elle Magazine)

Utterly engrossing (Fanny Blake Woman & Home)

Riveting (Metro)

Absorbing ... a rich and puzzled book (Philip Hensher Spectator)

Summerscale puts this peculiar case in a wonderfully rich context of fads of the day ... Her courtroom reconstructions are vivid and enthralling, her research is impeccable and her narration coolly authoritative as she draws together what was happening around her subject and makes Mrs Robinson's volatile state of mind much more explicable (Claire Harman Evening Standard)

Fascinating (New York Times Book Review)

Marvellous (Vogue)

A gripping account of Victorian wife Isabella Robinson and her cause célèbre divorce trial (Harper's Bazaar)

Meticulously researched (Maggie Shipstead New York Times)

Sensational (Vicky Allen Glasgow Herald)

Kate Summerscale has a knack for rescuing Victorian histories from obscurity and turning them into the most comprehensive books you're likely to find in any non-fiction section ... Thought-provoking stuff from a writer who, in putting the past in the dock, teaches us about who we are now (Chitra Ramaswamy Scotsman)

Moving, compelling and brilliantly executed (Dan Jones, Daily Telegraph, Books of the Year 2012-11-24)

Book Description

From the number one bestselling, multi-award-winning author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Diary Verified Purchase
This is a case of successful extreme research and cleverly stitched historical information apparently about the marriage of an individual woman. It is actually much more than that, providing insight into both men and women, the way society is organised, and how established values can dominate fragile human beings. The profiling of individual persons, victims or lawyers, is fascinating. Read the notes.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Like many other reviewers, I was drawn to this through my enjoyment of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher. I don't baulk at contemporary journals, and was familiar with the inequities of middle class Victorian life, particularly with regard to the position of women. So I was surprised at what a hard read I found it, and how I plodded along without any great sense of engagement. I reminded myself that these sort of factual books are never best read on Kindle editions - it is annoying to have to do the footnotes in a lump at the end, and it was some time before I fully dawned that this was actually only excerpts of the diary, as published for the trial. It was well written and well researched, and for a while I just couldn't work out why I wasn't enjoying it. It was quite hard to follow the motivation of many of the characters until the light bulb went off and I realised that these were Sunday Times folk. The well to do, leisured chattering classes, with the time, money and brains to pick over the latest theories, books and exhibitions. Throw in an addiction to the latest pseudo scientific wellness fads, odd diets - well you can find that in the glossy supplements any week, but with the added advantage in this case of that insatiable Victorian thirst for knowledge and improvement, their willingness to up sticks and move around, and the extra frisson of lots of sex. And some of the peripheral characters were big hitters - Darwin's belief in hydrotherapy led to him attending the "spa" run by Isabella's inamorata. Goodness, the Victorians were as obsessed with sex as any other era, but equally obsessed with not talking about it.Read more ›
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By C. Bannister TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 17 Feb. 2016
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to admit that I enjoy a good Victorian scandal, one that ended up in court, made headline news and left reputation tattered and torn, so I settled down to enjoy. What I didn’t bank on was my growing sympathy for poor Isabella’s plight.

The author reveals the background to the story first and we know that Isabella Robinson, a widow with a young son, married Henry Robinson in 1844. A fiercely intelligent and well-read woman it didn’t take her long to realise that perhaps she should have held out for a better match:

He was an ‘uncongenial man’ she wrote in her diary: uneducated, narrow-minded, harsh-tempered, selfish, proud.’ While she yearned to talk about literature and politics, to write poetry, learn languages and read the latest essays on science and philosophy, he was ‘a man who had only a commercial life’

We hear how the couple moved around but the real action starts once they moved to Edinburgh, where with young children in tow they made the acquaintance of Elizabeth Drysdale, a fantastic host who shared her splendid home with her daughter Mary and her son-in-law Edward Lane. Edward Lane had studied to be a lawyer but was now training to be a doctor (these upper middle class men seemed to be eternally switching careers!) With Henry often away on business which was to design and build ships and mills for sugar cane it is clear that Isabella craved company, what she soon commits in writing is that she particularly craved a particular type of company from Mr Edward Lane.
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Format: Diary Verified Purchase
This book has really gripped me despite my misgivings about the violation of privacy in reading someone's (highly edited) diary. That aside, Kate Summerscale does a great job in contextualising the diary's contents. It gives a sobering account of the plight of even quite wealthy women in the 1850's if they had the misfortune to be unhappily married. This all sounds a bit worthy but I can truly say I found it an absorbing read and am very grateful for the freedom and independence women have always enjoyed in my lifetime. The Kindle edition also contains the full text of Madame Bovary with an introduction by KS which makes it particularly good value.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
After reading the glowing reviews from other authors and critics,I was very disappointed with this book. I was expecting some sort of diary. It isn't often that I choose a book which I find I don't particularly want to finish, but this, sadly, didn't hold my interest and I was glad to get to the end. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find Madam Bovary at the end which is one of my favourite books, so rereading that was a reward for staggering through poor Mrs. Robinson's little tale.
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