The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue
Description: "Miss Emily "Fido" Faithfull is a "woman of business" and a spinster pioneer in the British women’s movement, independent of mind but naively trusting of heart. Distracted from her cause by the sudden return of her 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 a courtroom drama that rivals the Clinton affair —complete with stained clothing, accusations of adultery, counterclaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy more than one life."
First line: "The last day of August, and the sky is the colour of hot ash."
My thoughts: Another winner from Donoghue! In fact, I enjoyed this one a bit more than her previous historical novel, Life Mask (which I also loved) because while I enjoy historical detail, Life Mask had a lot of information about the politics of the time, which was a bit much. I enjoyed the details about the popularization of divorce in England, as well as the early women's movement. As with Donoghue's other books, I loved that it was based on the lives of real people. While the Clinton thing didn't really register with me, it was quite fascinating the way the trial was sensationalized in the tabloids of the time, just like such cases are today.
Fido, oh Fido. While she mostly lived up to her name and tried to be a good friend, she was also very naive and gullible. Several times I said to her in my head, about Helen, "Don't trust her!" While her life went on with a fair bit of success (according to Donoghue's notes afterwards), it seemed like she was destined to be rather sad and alone.
The verdict: I think my favourite of Donoghue's historical novels is still her first, Slammerkin, but they've all been great and I look forward to the next historical person she tackles. I may even try some of her contemporary fiction, too.