“This is the golden age of narrative nonfiction, and Summerscale does it better than just about anyone.” Laura Miller of Salon.com on NPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday"
“You'll find Fifty Shades of Grey on beaches everywhere... but the story of Mrs. Robinson deserves a place on summer reading lists. She is pretty hot stuff.” The Boston Globe
“Summerscale unspools the Robinsons' tale with flair in Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace, but it's her social history of marriage that's really riveting. Grade: A” Tina Jordan, Entertainment Weekly
“[Kate Summerscale] prods, scrutinizes and examines, employing a real-life historical episode to shed light on Victorian morality and sensibilities . . . The end of the court case is surprising, and to give it away would be an insult to Summerscale's cleverly constructed narrative. But she stresses that one thing is clear: the diary ‘may not tell us, for certain, what happened in Isabella's life, but it tells us what she wanted.'” Andrea Wulf, The New York Times Book Review
“Kate Summerscale--perfectly at home in the 19th century, as evidenced in 2008's The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, her grisly but addictively readable tale of an 1860 murder investigation--blends cultural history with all the elements of a doomed love story in her tale of a real-life Madame Bovary . . . Isabella emerges, regardless of the verdict, as the most fascinating of characters, her pride not trampled in the face of a defense that called for her to proclaim herself a sex maniac rather than an adulterer. Not much of a choice, but she still came out on top.” Jordan Foster, NPR.org
“Summerscale engages with her material in such a psychologically rich manner, an added bonus feature, as it were, given that the original story is already so fascinating in itself . . . Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is a glorious evocation of both one woman's inner world, her hopes, dreams, disappointments and desires, and her outer one in the form of the painstakingly researched Victorian world she inhabits where a multitude of new ideas are threatening traditional conventional values . . . [A] captivating read which will surely catapult its heroine into the same limelight as her detective predecessor.” Lucy Scholes, The Daily Beast
“Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace is far more than the account of a failed marriage and its aftermath--or even the story of a torrid affair, imaginary or otherwise. In the manner of her prize-winning The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, Kate Summerscale takes the records and reports of the court case and treats them like a detective story, skillfully building up the suspense and using the interstices in her main narrative--when the judges retire to consider their verdict, for instance--to digress into the highways and byways of Victorian life.” Virginia Rounding, Financial Times
“[Isabella Robinson's] is a sad story, but Summerscale tells it with sympathy and understanding. She sees Isabella as a British Madame Bovary, whose story Gustave Flaubert was setting down in his great novel even as Isabella's story was unfolding. She also sees Isabella as a transitional figure in women's slow and difficult progress from repression and exploitation to the liberation that in time emerged. The evidence Summerscale presents suggests that this is a fair interpretation.” Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
“This nonfiction account of the divorce of Isabella and Henry Robinson in 1858 is an elegantly rendered portrait of marriage, class and hypocrisy in Victorian Britain.” Cynthia Crossen, WSJ.com's "Dear Book Lover" blog
“With intelligence and graceful prose, Summerscale gives an intimate and surprising look into Victorian life.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace tells us far more than the story of one reckless woman born before her time. It navigates the cloudy waters of marital law, Victorian sexuality, and the burgeoning women's liberation movement. The diary may have ruined Isabella Robinson, but Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace has the power to vindicate her.” Hillary Kelly, Bookforum.com
“Not just a scandalous diary, but a portrait of the plight of women in the early Victorian era . . . A revealing portrait of the straight-laced Victorians.” Kirkus Reviews
“Following the pattern of her previous book The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Summerscale combines a thorough examination of her topic with a wider view of relevant social issues--in this case, Victorian attitudes toward marriage, divorce, and the figure of the unhappy housewife. A deft unraveling of a little-known scandal that should appeal to any reader interested in women's history or the world behind the facade of the Victorian home.” Kathleen McCallister, Library Journal
“Romance and repression abound as a Victorian matron's innermost secrets are revealed in court via her private diary…. Summerscale does a nice job of placing both the case and the diary firmly into historical and sociological contexts.” Margaret Flanagan, Booklist
“Readers who complain that history is boring have never read Kate Summerscale . . . If you want historical accuracy and excellent research, grab the Summerscale.” Yvonne Zip, The Christian Science Monitor
Not just a scandalous diary, but a portrait of the plight of women in the early Victorian era. The excerpts from Isabella Robinson's diary show a woman in a loveless, miserable marriage. Her desperate longings for love, or at least someone to talk to, fed her imagination and fired her writings with delusional tales of amour. Women living in the mid 19th century had no legal existence, so she couldn't file a lawsuit, control her own money or even claim her own clothes and jewelry. Summerscale (The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective, 2008, etc.) may have set out to write about one woman's fall from grace, but she also exposes the horrendous misery of even gently born women during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was during that period that the government at last allowed both men and women to sue for divorce without parliamentary approval. A man seeking to put away his wife could do so by implication only, but women needed to prove at least two incidents of adultery. Apparently, in Mrs. Robinson's case, the fact that her husband had a mistress who bore him two children was not sufficient. At this time the use of insanity as a plea came into more common use, and Mrs. Robinson's friends strongly suggested that she claim she was insane at the time she wrote things like "the happiness of loving" and "long, passionate, clinging embrace." A revealing portrait of the straight-laced Victorians who produced innumerable sex scandals, delved into new and sometimes bizarre health fads and generally dismissed anyone considered beneath them, like colonials and women.