Emma Donoghue's latest historical novel "The Sealed Letter" has just been released by Harper Collins Canada.
I first discovered Donoghue back in 2000 when I read one of her best selling novels, Slammerkin. I was struck then by the richness of her characters, so well written that the reader develops strong emotions towards them. Most impressive however is Donoghue's historical research. The fabric, mores, culture and so much more of Victorian England are brilliantly and accurately portrayed.
So is the case with The Sealed Letter. As in previous novels, the story is based upon actual historical facts and persons. We meet 'Fido" Faithfull, a liberal thinking spinster who runs her own printing press espousing her 'Cause'- Women's Rights. She meets up with an old friend Helen Codrington, who detests her older husband Admiral Codrington, and the restrictions society puts upon 'correct' female behaviour. Fido is drawn into Helen's world, but is naive and trusting. She offers true friendship, but due to Helen's machinations, is instead thrust unwillingly into the public eye in Helen's very messy divorce. This divorce case takes place in 1864, but believe it or not features a stained dress (sound familiar?), accusations of rape and a mysterious sealed letter that could decide the case.
Donoghue captures the language, the emotions and the time period eloquently. The Sealed Letter is the third of a loose trilogy exploring Victorian society and life through the eyes of the different classes. Slammerkin explores the poor, Life Mask the very rich and The Sealed Letter the middle class. All are extremely enjoyable reads.