My choice this week is from Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale. I’m not normally attracted to books heavy on historical fact but this work of non-fiction apparently reads like a story.
In London in the summer of 1858, a court of law began to grant divorces to the English middle classes. Until then, a marriage could be dissolved only by an individual Act of Parliament, at a cost prohibitive to almost all of the population. The new Court of Divorce and Matrimonial Causes was able to sever the marital bond far more cheaply and quickly. To win a divorce was still difficult – a man had to prove that his wife had committed adultery, a woman that her husband was guilty of two matrimonial offences – but the petitioners came in their hundreds, bringing their stories of betrayal and strife, of brutish men and, especially, of wanton women.”
and from the beginning of the story –
“In the evening of 15 November 1850, a mild Friday night, Isabella Robinson set out for a party near her house in Edinburgh. Her carriage bumped across the wide cobbled avenues of the Georgian New Town and drew up in a circle of grand sandstone houses lit by street lamps. She descended from the cab and mounted the steps to 8 Royal Circus, its huge door glowing with brass and topped with a bright rectangle of glass. This was the residence of Lady Drysdale, a rich and well-connected widow to whom Isabella and her husband had been commended when they moved to Edinburgh that autumn.”
Buy it or bin it?