First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday – ‘Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace’ by Kate Summerscale


First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday, hosted by Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea, is a weekly meme where you share the first paragraph (or two) from a book you are considering reading.

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?

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