Girl in a Blue Dress: A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens

Girl in a Blue Dress: A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens

3.5 20
by Gaynor Arnold
     
 

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At the end of her life, Catherine, the cast-off wife of Charles Dickens, gave the letters she had received from her husband to their daughter Kate, asking her to donate them to the British Museum, “so the world may know that he loved me once.” The incredible vulnerability and heartache evident beneath the surface of this remark inspired Gaynor Arnold to…  See more details below

Overview

At the end of her life, Catherine, the cast-off wife of Charles Dickens, gave the letters she had received from her husband to their daughter Kate, asking her to donate them to the British Museum, “so the world may know that he loved me once.” The incredible vulnerability and heartache evident beneath the surface of this remark inspired Gaynor Arnold to write Girl in a Blue Dress, a dazzling debut novel inspired by the life of this tragic yet devoted woman. Arnold brings the spirit of Catherine Dickens to life in the form of Dorothea “Dodo” Gibson–a woman who is doomed to live in the shadow of her husband, Alfred, the most celebrated author in the Victorian world.

The story opens on the day of Alfred’s funeral. Dorothea is not among the throngs in attendance when The One and Only is laid to rest. Her mourning must take place within the walls of her modest apartment, a parting gift from Alfred as he ushered her out of their shared home and his life more than a decade earlier. Even her own children, save her outspoken daughter Kitty, are not there to offer her comfort–they were poisoned against her when Alfred publicly declared her an unfit wife and mother. Though she refuses to don the proper mourning attire, Dodo cannot bring herself to demonize her late husband, something that comes all too easily to Kitty.

Instead, she reflects on their time together–their clandestine and passionate courtship, when he was a force of nature and she a willing follower; and the salad days of their marriage, before too many children sapped her vitality and his interest. She uncovers the frighteningly hypnotic power of the celebrity author she married. Now liberated from his hold on her, Dodo finds the courage to face her adult children, the sister who betrayed her, and the charming actress who claimed her husband’s love and left her heart aching.

A sweeping tale of love and loss that was long-listed for both the Man Booker Prize and the Orange Prize, Girl in a Blue Dress is both an intimate peek at the woman who was behind one of literature’s most esteemed men and a fascinating rumination on marriage that will resonate across centuries.


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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780307462275
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
07/14/2009
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
802,819
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

GAYNOR ARNOLD is a first-time novelist who lives in England.


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Girl in a Blue Dress 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Eustacia_Penrod More than 1 year ago
This was a departure from the usual suspect of books I delve into. Using the service on Barnes and Noble that allow you to read a few pages before purchasing the book, by page five I was very intrigued about the main character Dorthea Gibson and had to know more. Loosely based on Charles Dicken's wife and their relationship/marriage, this was a fabulous period piece that reminds one of the art of courtship. I couldn't put it down after the first day. I read it in 6 hours. However, for most readers, this is a lovely story that will take you a couple of weeks if you read at bed time or lunch. The author weaves a detailed compelling story of the life of Dorthea Gibson, the coming of age, her indoctrination into Alfred's theatrical/writing life, but more importantly the author tells us about Dorthea's grace and strength of resolve to endure being Alfred's wife and the path to an awakening that brings about a dramatic change within herself and her relationship with her children. For those who like Victorian settings and the "ole fashioned" yester years of romance and family life, this is a lovely journey to take. For those who are into the courage of women, this is a good one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Being unfamiliar with the personal life of Charles Dickens, it was interesting to briefly research his life and see the colaboration presented within this piece of fiction. It was a fast read. I gave it four stars because it motivated me to research and become more knowledgeable with Charles Dickens. I'm sure his works and life were outlined during my school years, but being so long ago and my interests were in other things :) at the time, I enjoyed revisiting Mr. Dickens.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My favorite genre is historical fiction, so I was intrigued by this book. However, I enjoy reading a book that actually has a plot. If you enjoy character development, as another reviewer wrote, this book is for you. I found it to be interminably long and almost impossible to finish. Dodo met with one character and rehashed her past, followed by meeting with another with whom she rehashed her past again and again... I have about 50 pages to go and don't know that I can finish it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As I have stated before, historical fiction is above and beyond my favorite genre, especially those that take place in old Victorian England. There is something about the elegance and etiquette of this time period that is second to none. Could you imagine having to present your "card" to a friend's maid to be "announced" to her? When was the last time you wrote a "letter" to your friend instead of a text or e-mail? Girl in a Blue Dress has fictional characters; however, Arnold states that she drew her inspiration from the family life of Mr. Charles Dickens himself. There seems to be no greater Dickens scholar than she; yet, by her own admission, she took many liberties in extending the truth and filling-in-the-blanks. The novel begins with the end - the funeral of England's most admirable author, Alfred Gibson. He has long been separated from his "widow", Dorothea, the narrator of the story. Dorothea's flashbacks to her happy beginnings with Alfred, the births of many, many children with him, and finally, their painful separation, make up the gist of the novel. However, it is the inner torture of Alfred (as it is with many creative souls) that Gaynor seems to want to make the heart of Girl in a Blue Dress. It is interesting that I immediately made a comparison in my mind with this novel to The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher. Both authors should be highly commended for their efforts and incomparable research. However, as with Whicher, I found myself looking at the clock, wanting this to end. It is just too long and wordy, with endless meetings upon meetings between the characters. Dorothea meets with one person for twenty pages to bare her soul, then she meets with another person for twenty pages. If you like novels with great character development, then this is the book for you. However, if you want some sort of plot to go with those characters, I would advise you to look elsewhere. MY RATING - 4 for effort, 3 for readability To see my rating scale and other reviews, please check out my blog: http://www.1776books.blogspot.com
Jennlvs2read More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book. Good story, characters were well written. Love the historical feel.
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juliamoon More than 1 year ago
I stopped in the middle of this book because I just couldn't stand her being such a DOORMAT and him being such a JERK.
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