The Sealed Letter, by Emma Donoghue

Cover of "The Sealed Letter"

Cover of The Sealed Letter

Let me start off by saying that I loved, loved Room, also by Emma Donoghue. I’ve read it twice. The Sealed Letter? Not so much.

From Goodreads:

Miss Emily “Fido” Faithfull is a “woman of business” and a spinster pioneer in the British women’s movement, independent of mind but naïvely trusting of heart. Distracted from her cause by the sudden return of a once-dear friend, the unhappily wed Helen Codrington, Fido is swept up in the intimate details of Helen’s failing marriage and obsessive affair with a young army officer. What begins as a loyal effort to help a friend explodes into an intriguing courtroom drama complete with accusations of adultery, counterclaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy more than one life.

Based on a scandalous divorce case that gripped England in 1864, The Sealed Letter is a riveting, provocative drama of friends, lovers, and divorce, Victorian-style.

The Sealed Letter is written fairly well, and it does have an interesting twist at the end (which I won’t tell you about). But I really can’t say I loved it, or even liked it very much. It was so dramatic, and so tragic, but it didn’t feel real at all. Fido was the faithful, naïve companion, and Helen was the scandalous, flighty wife, and her husband was the cuckolded, bitter spouse. That’s as human as they got. Tragedy keeps striking, and you should feel for the characters, but you never do because they never feel quite real to you. (Even though the novel is loosely based on history, and thus, you know, real people, so what’s up with that?)

Actually, I may have only finished the book because of Goodreads. I’m doing a 2012 reading challenge over there and I can’t list a book unless I’ve finished it and it hurts my obsessive soul to spend time on a book and have nothing to show for it. (Who knew pride and neuroticism would come in handy here?)

Have any of you read it? What did you think?


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