The Invisible Woman: The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickensby Claire Tomalin
Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan met in 1857; she was 18, a hard-working actress performing in his production of The Frozen Deep, and he was 45, the most lionized writer in England. Out of their meeting came a love affair that lasted thirteen years and destroyed Dickens’s marriage while effacing Nelly Ternan from the public record.
In this remarkable work of biography and scholarly reconstruction, the acclaimed biographer of Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys and Jane Austen rescues Nelly from the shadows of history, not only returning the neglected actress to her rightful place, but also providing a compelling portrait of the great Victorian novelist himself. The result is a thrilling literary detective story and a deeply compassionate work that encompasses all those women who were exiled from the warm, well-lighted parlors of Victorian England.
- Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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- Random House
- NOOK Book
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- 10 MB
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Meet the Author
Claire Tomalin is the author of eight highly acclaimed biographies including Thomas Hardy and Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, which won the 2002 Whitbread Book of the Year Award. She has previously won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for Biography, the Whitbread First Book Award, the Hawthornden Prize, the NCR Book Award for Non-Fiction, and the Whitbread Biography Award.
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I decided to read this after hearing Ralph Fiennes speak about the upcoming movie and how he became fascinated with Charles Dickens upon reading the screenplay. The movie must be a highly fictionalized and dramatized account of Dickens' relationship with Nelly, as the book is a very dry, mostly factual account of their affair. I plodded through it because I am a Dickens devotee and I was interested by his persona and learning about his power and weakness. If you are looking for a good read, try something else about Dickens because this book is definitely tough to stick with. It is boring and dry. I cannot recommend it. I hope the movie is MUCH more interesting!!!!
"It suited most men to believe that a virtuous actress was as likely as an honest thief."—page 49 Perhaps if I had a better knowledge of, and appreciation for, Charles Dickens, Victorian England, and the plethora of people and places of 1850s/1860s London/England named, I would have gotten more out of Claire Tomalin's gossipy and speculative biographical offering: THE INVISIBLE WOMAN: The story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens. But I doubt it. Any story a highlight of which is the purchase of a dog collar in Paris—"Nelly did some shopping, or at least bought a blue collar with a silver bell for Lady Clara," page 191—begs the question: Why bother? Recommendation: Why bother? "No doubt he believed that, at the sensitive point where the theater met the outside world, hypocrisy became not only excusable but absolutely necessary."—page 155 NOOKbook edition, 350 pages
[FTC: I received this book in a Goodreads/FirstReads giveaway. All opinions are my own. I am a historian, having read first person history in preparing for one Masters [of three] . My opinions are not influenced by how I got the book] This is a scholarly biography of Ellen("Nelly") Ternan, alledged to be the mistress of Charles Dickens. According to the authir she was. What little is left of her history does question that, most having been destroyed at Dickens' and her death. The question becomes how fluid morals and myths were during the Victorian era of British history, and how mythic the name Charles Dickens was, and still is, in England. Can we look at this through the Victorian eyepiece, or must we look back on it from once we stand? The prior reviewer said that they had read the book after hearing Feinnes' lauding the screenplay. This book has been out a long time. Scholarly it is. Balanced on scandal it also is. Titillating it isn't Tomalin is a biographer of some note, but this book is not well written, rather long, and seems to have two authors: One adores Dickens, and one tries to make him human by showing his feet of clay