The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “Helen Codrington is unhappily married. Emily ‘Fido’ Faithfull hasn’t seen her once-dear friend for years. After bumping into Helen on the streets of Victorian London, Fido finds herself reluctantly helping her to carry out an affair with a young army officer. The women’s friendship quickly unravels amid courtroom accusations of adultery, counter-accusations of cruelty and attempted rape, and the appearance of a mysterious ‘sealed letter’ that could destroy more than one life…”

REVIEW: This book, based on a real-life scandal that took place in England in 1864, was a little difficult to get into (my Nan found the same thing, when I lent it to her); but, once it did get going, I found myself thoroughly gripped by the story. The fact that it was based on real life events made the peculiar friendship between Helen and Fido all the more interesting, especially as it was easy to sense that there had once been much more than just friendship between these two women. Links to the feminist movement were frequent and excellently written – having just had a series of lectures on the Victorian feminist movement, I can bear witness to their accuracy! Attitudes towards women – and, indeed, towards lesbianism – were extremely well-portrayed, and I felt particularly sorry for Fido by the end of the novel. Despite the fact that I found it difficult to like her at first, I felt some sympathy towards Fido in that her love for Helen was not only unrequited, it was incomprehensible to the rest of society. Although a little slow-moving and hard-going at times, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to any feminists like myself who are interested in the origins of this great movement.

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