File Size: 1539 KB
Print Length: 434 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books (July 1, 2009)
Publication Date: July 14, 2009
In Dorothea, while I can easily see most readers wanting to view her as weak willed and determined (and she can sometimes be) I also visit a strength in her capability to be grateful for what he brought to her life and the woman love for him. Typically the ability to forgive is not just a sign of weak point but is often wrong for this. Readers also have to remember that the girl was a victim of her time; of having to be a good wife and mother, manage to carry a conversation with very little education or world experience and keep themselves pretty and agreeable. I love her little revelation at the finish about " radicals" and the varieties of lives women deserve to live on.
I also like that while there wasn't a " happy" ending in the way people would expect like Alfred coming to her and apologizing before his death, or the woman finding he really performed love her after all when reading his notebook, there was still a feeling of closure with the return of her children and her meeting with Miss Rickets. I also think the choice to make Alfred a character who believes his own lies, even at the expenditure of others gave good closure to his character, as one can't help but ask why he'd do the things he had done, and this sheds light on his own unhappiness and self-absorbed nature.
This is a long read and not always very quick moving, but is still a page turner and a read I valued very much., I thought I would hate this novel, not being keen on " fictionalized non-fiction", but I read it as the monthly selection for my book club, and I was enthralled.
Well-written, well investigated, true to the period and very engaging. Made myself when you go out and do my own research on Dickens' life; and exactly what an interesting life that was! (poor, long-suffering Catherine... ), PBS's popular "Masterpiece Theatre" program recently produced a multi-part televised adaptation of Charles Dickens's LITTLE DORRIT, considered by many to be one of the author's most accomplished works. During the introduction to one of the episodes, the host commented that despite Dickens's lifelong marriage, by the time of the writing of this book he had fallen out there of love with his extremely fertile (and, as a result, rather stout) wife, preferring instead the affections of a childlike, domestic, sweet and mild-mannered girl --- someone just like the character of Amy Dorrit herself. In LITTLE DORRIT, the hero, Arthur Clennam, is horrified to discover that, during his years abroad, his childhood sweetheart has ballooned into a vast but vacuous woman, a figure to be both pitied and mocked --- and in contrast with the earnest sweet taste and childlike great Amy Dorrit. What must Dickens's wife have felt to see her own unfortunate marriage reduced to fictional farce?
In GIRL IN A BLUE DRESS, author Gaynor Arnold seeks to explore this question and others, as she writes the woman book from the point of view of a woman inspired by Charles Dickens's wife, Catherine. Typically the Dickensian character is named Alfred Gibson; his wife is Dorothea. However, it could soon become clear to those with even a passing understanding of Dickens's career that Gibson is a stand-in for the most famous Victorian novelist. Catherine Dickens has been reduced to supporting character status in most books about her famous husband; here she actually is given a chance to tell her own story.
LADY IN A BLUE DRESS clears your day of Gibson's memorial; Dorothea, who has recently been cast out from the family (including being estranged from most of her six surviving children), chooses to stay in the shadows rather than face the twin horrors of the crowd's adulation of her husband and the woman own very public shame. Dorothea is visited by her eldest daughter, Cat, who, although she was her father's favorite, has still remained loyal to her mother. As Cat recounts the mania that has overtaken London in the wake of the woman father's death, Dorothea casts her mind back to the earliest days of her courtship by "The One and Only, inch as Gibson becomes known. Gibson is alternately egotistical and endearingly eccentric, spectacular and dour, as he entreats Dorothea to be more fun-loving but will remind her that they both must work very hard to avoid the lower income and misery that characterised so much of his own youth.
With marriage arrived conjugal bliss and infants; faced with Dorothea's more matronly figure and mother's responsibilities, Gibson's attention often strays elsewhere. The grasp storyteller, however, is also quite skilled at fabricating justifications for their own interest in, and behavior in the direction of, young women --- including Dorothea's own younger siblings. As Dorothea retells the sad saga of the woman marriage to Gibson, the girl illustrates the mixture of pride and disappointment that characterize marriage to one so talented, so famous and so single-minded --- a man whose best devotion was not to his wife, but to the characters he created.
In the days and weeks following Gibson's dying, even as she views all this history, Dorothea has a choice to make. Will she continue to be a virtual prisoner in her own home, bound by shame and isolated from the friends and family who used to like her? Or perhaps will she use the woman famous husband's demise as an chance to rejoin the outside world?
Those with only a passing knowledge of the life and work of Charles Dickens will still find much to enjoy in this interesting character study of a Victorian woman in what appears to be an impossible situation. Dickensophiles, however, will be delighted not only by the chance to read a fictionalized autobiography of 1 of the key figures in Dickens's own life, but also by the seamless manner in which Arnold skillfully incorporates Dickens's characters into his life story. GIRL IN The BLUE DRESS will show readers a fresh side of Dickens --- one that portrays the great author as more flawed, perhaps, but also more human --- and a portrait of the truly amazing man's wife as a fully realized character, a product of her times and circumstances, not just as a literary device or farce.
--- Reviewed by Norah Piehl
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