Thursday, 25 July 2013

Book Review: The Sealed Letter

I read the award-winning Room a few years ago, so when I found another book by Emma Donoghue in the local library, of course I picked it up. It’s set in the 1860s, during the first wave of feminism, and plays out in the lead-up to and then during one of the first really big-name divorce cases.

The first 30 pages or so were quite slow, but after that I really did not want to put the book down, and finished it within 24 hours. I found it really interesting to look at first-wave feminism, and really the start of women’s transition into their modern-day roles and identities. A core part of the storyline was the assertion that a female friendship was more than a friendship, and it was intriguing to think about how female companionship had always been seen as totally innocent, but suddenly that was beginning to change.

I didn’t realise until I’d read the afterword that it was a real event, and I thought it was very well researched. Donoghue actually dealt with the blend of real facts and her imagination very well and I liked seeing emotional responses (gleaned from letters as well as imagination) to things which actually happened.

This was the first of Emma Donoghue’s historical works that I’d read, but I loved Room for her ability to completely inhabit a little boy’s voice, and here again she displayed her ability to use another voice perfectly.  The language she used wasn’t too anachronistic but also didn’t jar as obviously ‘historical’ – the dialogue was very well written indeed.

I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoyed Room, or who likes historical novels or novels with strong (though not necessarily faultless!) female protagonists. It's available in most good bookshops. 

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