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Short Synopsis
Kate Summerscale, the bestselling, award-winning author of The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, brilliantly re-creates the Victorian world, chronicling in exquisite and compelling detail the life of Isabella Robinson, wherein the longings of a frustrated wife collide with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality.

Full Synopsis
"I think people marry far too much; it is such a lottery, and for a poor woman—bodily and morally the husband's slave—a very doubtful happiness." —Queen Victoria to her recently married daughter Vicky

Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age thirty-one in 1844. Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing. A successful civil engineer, Henry moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh's elegant society in 1850. But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.

No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts—and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane—in her diary. Over five years the entries mounted—passionate, sensual, suggestive. One fateful day in 1858 Henry chanced on the diary and, broaching its privacy, read Isabella's intimate entries. Aghast at his wife's perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English life. Their trial would be a cause celebre, threatening the foundations of Victorian society with the specter of "a new and disturbing figure: a middle class wife who was restless, unhappy, avid for arousal." Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert's Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s.

As she accomplished in her award-winning and bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale brilliantly recreates the Victorian world, chronicling in exquisite and compelling detail the life of Isabella Robinson, wherein the longings of a frustrated wife collided with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality.

"With intelligence and graceful prose, Summerscale gives an intimate and surprising look into Victorian life." ---Publishers Weekly Starred Review

"It is not just a dark, vicious true crime story; it is the story of the birth of forensic science." ---Time

"A deft unraveling of a little-known scandal that should appeal to any [fan] interested in women's history or the world behind the facade of the Victorian home." ---Library Journal
New York Times Bestseller

Publishers Weekly Review

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Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace

The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

Author Kate Summerscale

Narrated by Wanda McCaddon

Publication date Jun 19, 2012

Running time 8 hrs

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