Book Review: Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

Robinson - Summerscale

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

By Kate Summerscale

My Rating: 4 Stars

I vowed to read/listen to more non-fiction this year and am delighted about this find. Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace was thrilling to listen to and gave me an in-depth perspective of life for Victorian women. I knew that they had very little say in the big decisions in their lives. Most going from being the property of their father to the property of their husbands. While many came with dowery’s they did not have control of those funds once married. And the idea of being able to leave an unhappy marriage was almost impossible. That is why this book was so fascinating. In 1844 Isabella Walker found herself widowed at the age of 31. Her husbands estate went entirely to a son from a previous marriage leaving Isabella with nothing. She married Henry Robinson, a successful engineer who traveled often. Not only did Henry travel often, leaving Isabella alone, but when he was home he was cold and distant. And it was known that he has mistresses.

Isabella Robinson, lonely and alone, kept a diary filled with her personal thoughts, dreams and desires. In her diary she revealed a longtime attraction to a man named Edward Lane. Lane was married to a friend of Isabella’s so she saw him and his family often throughout her life. Her diary eventually winds up in the hands of her husband, who believes that she committed adultery. Henry files for divorce as it’s just become a legal option in England. Their trial becomes a scandalous affair that is followed closely in the newspapers and social circles of England.

This was a fascinating read! Providing insight into accepted views of sexuality in Victorian England for both men and women, the state of perceived accepted social norms, the constraints on women in Victorian England, as well as the power their husbands had over them and the double standards that existed for women and men in Victorian society. There is also a lengthy discussion about divorce through the church VS divorce through legal avenues in Victorian England and how the changing perspectives on marriage and divorce challenged established social norms and would ultimately change the way marriage was perceived in Britain.

Overall a great read. Thought provoking and engaging for the reader and a fascinating look into Victorian society. Check it out and see what you think.

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