Goodreads Monday ~ Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady


Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme hosted by Lauren’s Page Turners. To participate, you simply choose a random book from your TBR and show it off. Don’t forget to check out her blog and link back to Lauren’s Page Turners and add your own links!

My Random Pick

Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace (The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady)
By Kate Summerscale
Published by: Bloomsbury USA
ISBN13: 9781608199136
Pages: 303
Genre: Historical/Biography


“I think people marry far too much; it is such a lottery, and for a poor woman–bodily and morally the husband’s slave–a very doubtful happiness.” –Queen Victoria to her recently married daughter Vicky.

Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 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 – and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane – in her diary. Over five years the entries mounted-passionate, sensual, 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, 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.

I cannot even recall how I stumbled upon this title several years ago, but it has sat ever so patiently up TBR shelf since. Have you read this or heard of it? I would love to hear some thoughts. What is on your TBR shelf that is catching your eye lately?

Happy Monday!

Danielle ❤

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45 thoughts on “Goodreads Monday ~ Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady

  1. This sounds so good! I’m immediately feeling sorry for Isabella! I’ve had several classics on my shelves and am partway through The Scarlet Letter. It sits there week after week, and one of these days, I’m going to be guilted into finishing it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I enjoyed this one though truthfully I enjoyed both her earlier one, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, and her more recent one, The Wicked Boy, more. But it might just have been to do with subject matter – this one is about divorce and the place of women in society, whereas the other two are about crime and justice, which interest me more. Hope you enjoy it (or either of the other two)!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I have never heard of this book. However, I am definitely intrigued! I have a weak spot in my heart for epistolary novels. I also love how the rise of Queen Victoria triggered a wave of feminism. I wonder how much of this is based on real diaries and how much research when into this? That would be cool.

    Liked by 1 person

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