Who is Alfred Gibson? Does the public really know him better than his wife?
Alfred Gibson's funeral has taken place at Westminster Abbey, and Dorothea, his wife of twenty years, has not been invited. The Great Man's will favours his children and a clandestine mistress over his estranged wife. Dorothea is left only with the comforts of her feisty youngest daughter Kitty, whose attempts to demonise her father challenges Dorothea's memories. When an invitation for a private audience with Queen Victoria arrives, she begins to examine her own life more closely.
Dorothea revisits their courtship, early days of nuptial pleasure and domestic family fun before the birth of too many children sapped her vitality. But she also uncovers the frighteningly hypnotic power of this celebrity author. Now Dodo will need to face her grown-up children, and worse, her dual nemesis of ten years before, her redoubtable younger sister Sissy and the charming actress Miss Ricketts.
Fabulously indulgent Victoriana . . . a lovely, rich evocation of the period that rises above the faintly damning 'historical fiction' label with its complex characterisation and silky prose. It also seems apposite - a neat rendering of a celebrity marriage with all the pressure and expectation that counting fame invites. - Observer.
Long-listed for the 2008 Orange Prize for Fiction.
Shortlisted for the 2008 Orange Prize's Shadow Youth Panel