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Download Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady, by Kate Summerscale Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,337 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Kate Summerscale Narrator: Wanda McCaddon Publisher: Tantor Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age thirty-one in 1844. Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing. A successful civil engineer, Henry moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh’s elegant society in 1850. But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.

No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts—especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane—in her diary. Over five years the entries mounted—passionate, sensual, and suggestive. One fateful day in 1858, Henry chanced on the diary and, broaching its privacy, read Isabella’s intimate entries. Aghast at his wife’s perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery. Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English life. Their trial would be a cause celebre, threatening the foundations of Victorian society with the specter of “a new and disturbing figure: a middle-class wife who was restless, unhappy, and avid for arousal.” Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s.

As she accomplished in her award-winning and bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale brilliantly recreates the Victorian world, chronicling in exquisite and compelling detail the life of Isabella Robinson, wherein the longings of a frustrated wife collided with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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.”

    Entertainment Weekly

  • “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.’”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “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.”

    Boston Globe

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Dayle | 2/17/2014

    " It was good but I got bogged down about a third of the way through. I'm glad I continued be it is a bit of a slog a times. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Darlah | 2/15/2014

    " Very eye-opening to the lack of women's rights in Europe in the mid 1800's. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Katherine | 2/11/2014

    " The second history I've read by Summerscale. Very readable, excellent research, and a very interesting personal story of the times. Summerscale does a great job of bringing Isabella's story into the wider context of the mid-Victorian era. Guest spots by Charles Darwin, George Eliot and Charles Dickens only make the story more interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by Jane | 2/4/2014

    " Interesting story of its time. "

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About the Author
Author Kate Summerscale

Kate Summerscale is the former literary editor for the Daily Telegraph and author of The Queen of Whale Cay, which won the Somerset Maugham Award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread biography award. She lives in London.