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Review: Girl in a Blue Dress, by Gaynor Arnold; and a giveaway

The thinly-disguised story of Catherine Dickens, wife of the famous author, is at the heart of this unpretentious, unassuming novel.

The celebrated author Alfred Gibson has died, leaving England in mourning. His estranged wife, Dorothy (or “Dodo”) sits at home as the funeral and reading of the will take place. As she sits, she looks back on her twenty-year-plus marriage to “the One and Only,” and “The Great Original.” An invitation to visit Queen Victoria, as well to her sister Sissy and the actress Wilhelmina Rickets, leads to another series of reflections on her marriage.

It’s a quiet novel, simple yet complicated in many ways. There’s not much action, certainly not in the present day, but there’s a certain gentleness of language that makes this book compellingly readable. Dodo, despite her shy, retiring ways, is a likeable heroine, strong in the ways a “typical” Victorian woman wasn’t supposed to be. In addition, I enjoyed the way the characters interacted with one another: Dodo’s daughter Kitty, the son-in-law who is obsessed with money; but most of all, Alfred Gibson himself: control freak, obsessed with keeping poverty at bay (even when he was in his most successful period), and eagerness to change the truth when it suits him. I get the feeling that Gibson isn’t supposed to be likeable, but he’s charismatic enough that the people around him tend to overlook his flaws. The only one who realizes who Gibson really was is, ironically, Dodo.

To the modern reader, the Victorian era is a strange place—all those customs regarding mourning, for example, are simply mind-boggling. Dorothy’s world is one that’s strictly defined by traditions and conventions, and Dodo’s story is that of a woman who isn’t afraid to bend the rules a bit. In all, an excellent novel, worthy of having been longlisted for the Booker Prize. To be published in the US in December.

I'll be giving away a second copy of this book that I received from Amazon UK by accident; leave a comment with your e-mail by next Wednesday (Oct. 1) to enter to win it!

Also reviewed by: Becky's Book Reviews


Meghan said…
This sounds like a very good book and definitely one I'd like. I'd like to enter your giveaway! My email is:

meghankk at gmail dot com

This definitely sounds interesting. Please enter me!

Teresa said…
I'm definitely interested in reading this one!

teresakayep at yahoo dot com
Heidi said…
Sounds like one I'd like to dig into. I'd like to enter, too. :) I'm at
Ashley said…
Sounds very good!
Sandra said…
I'd like to read this. Please enter me. Thank you.

bookchronicle said…
If you're willing to ship abroad I would love, love to enter.

adventures in reading at gmail dot com
Amanda said…
Great review! I love the Victorian era and would love to read this one. Thanks!
Veronica said…
Sounds really interesting. I'd love to enter.

freemanm8 at gmail dot com
Anonymous said…
This really sounds like an interesting read. I'd like to enter your giveaway. Please enter my name!

Michele said…
I'd love to sounds wonderful, like a nice winter's-day-read.

xjt (dot) pilot AT rocketmail (dot) com
Ruth said…
I love Victorian era fiction! I'd love to read and review this one.

ruth [at] bookishruth [dot] com
Kanadani said…
This sounds like a good book. If you're willing to ship across the pond, please add me to your giveaway!
Sara said…
Please enter me as well.
Thank You,
Sararush at hotmail dot com
Sheri S. said…
Sounds interesting - I'd like to be entered! Thanks!

preferred.stock at gmail dot com
Marg said…
I would love a copy of this book if you are willing to post to Australia. My email is in my profile.
avisannschild said…
I'm also interested, if you're willing to ship to Canada. Victorian England is my favourite period for historical fiction.
Nicole said…
This looks great. I would love to read it. My e-mail is in my profile.
Anna said…
Please enter me! I'd love to read this book!

Lindymc said…
I enjoyed this review, please enter me for the giveaway. My email is:
Cynthia Granmo said…
Ooooh, I would love to add that to my TBR pile!! I would love to enter your email is cgranmo[at]hotmail[dot]com
Iliana said…
Sounds like my kind of book. Please add my name to the drawing!
archphoenix said…
Hey, cool!

kim (at) phoenix-rising (dot) net

Please and thanks!
teabird said…
Wow, great review! I'd love to read it.

teabird 17 at yahoo dot com
tanabata said…
This sounds like a great read! If it's open worldwide, I'd love to have my name in the hat. Thanks.

tanabata2000 AT gmail DOT com
fiftyfinally said…
Your into October already
Ladytink_534 said…
Oh I just love this cover! I haven't read a Dicken's novel in years but I remember really liking the ones I did read but I never knew anything about him personally. I'm now really curious and want to read this!
Bookfool said…
I probably don't qualify because I'm across the pond, but thanks for the review. I'm going to see if it's available in the U.S. It sounds wonderful. Those Victorian rituals really were rather mind-boggling, weren't they?

If I'm wrong and you're willing to email to the U.S., my email is bookfoolery at gmail dot com.
Kim said…
sounds like a great book! Pretty please put me in your drawing--
(page after page)
Katherine said…
Actually, bookfool, I am in the US--I just shop at Amazon Uk a lot. :).
Danielle said…
I thought this one sounded really interesting when I saw it on the Booker list. I'd love to have my name dropped in the hat for a chance to win a copy. Thanks for the offer!
Sarie said…
I would love to have a go at winning this if you can ship to the UK. Thanks.
geebee said…
I like the sound of this - very interesting. Please enter me and thank you for the chance!
geebee.reads AT gmail DOT com
Ceri said…
I hope you don't think i'm being cheeky by leaving a comment to win this book. I'd love to read it but I am in the UK. My email is
Tara said…
Please throw my name in!
mottu said…
I want to read this book , from your post it sounds quite interesting.

Email :
Teddy Rose said…
Awesome review! Too bad I missed out on your giveaway, but I have been enjoying the film festival. I added this book to my TBR.

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