11 August 2010

Girl in a Blue Dress

By Gaynor Arnold
Emblem edition published in Canada in 2010
Emblem is an imprint of McClelland & Stewart Ltd.

"A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens"
The One and Only, the Great Original, Alfred Gibson is dead. His wife, Dorothea, is not at his funeral; she is not welcome. Alfred's mistress, however, is in attendance, as is most of England, all mourning the death of the great author, actor, and playwright. To his Public, Alfred Gibson is a genius, a benefactor to those who need help, and a family man through and through. To Dorothea, Alfred is a man who can rewrite his life with the stroke of a pen, forcing her to leave her home and family after twenty years of marriage.

Gaynor Arnold's first novel is a heartbreaking story of what may or may not have happened between Charles and Catherine Dickens, transformed into this work of fiction as Alfred and Dorothea Gibson. What started as a true romance shifts into a desperation on Alfred's part to rid his family of Dorothea so he may pursue his life as he wishes.

Told from Dorothea's point of view, we are swept away on her every emotion from her first meeting with Alfred to the night she leaves the family without saying goodbye to her children in person:
"...So I had to creep round the bedrooms after you were all asleep and say good-bye to each of you in the silence of my heart."

Alfred's funeral is the starting point of the novel and Dorothea takes us on a trip through the present and the past to give us a full picture of Alfred the husband and Alfred the public figure. The Public forgives Alfred everything he does because he is a larger-than-life character; Dorothea may not forgive so easily.

This is a sad story, but well told and very hard to put down. To me, saddest of all is this quote from the Author's Note:
"Above all, in Dorothea Gibson I have tried to give voice to the largely voiceless Catherine Dickens, who once requested that her letters from her husband be preserved so that 'the world may know he loved me once'."

No comments: