ALL AUSTRALIAN THRILLS: Destined to Play by Indigo Bloome

From The Sydney Morning Herald:

Step aside, Fifty Shades of Grey, there’s a new name in steamy fiction.

Enter Destined to Play, the first in a three-book series that has seen first-time Australian author Indigo Bloome land herself in the position of a six-figure book deal.

The first in the Avalon trilogy may be Australia’s answer to the Anastasia Steele plot that has blown open the hunger for erotic fiction – and Destined looks set to please those who enjoyed the escapism afforded by the raunchy BDSM of Fifty Shades.

The book is being “rushed” into print after pre-orders in iTunes saw the title, announced on May 24, shoot straight to 7th on Apple iBooks bestsellers’ chart. It debuted at number two in the romance category and went on sale on July 1 read more

Read Indigo Bloome’s answers to our Ten Terrifying Questions

About Destined to Play: A 36-year-old psychologist specialising in visual perception comes to Sydney to give a series of lectures and meets up with Dr Jeremy Quinn, an ex-lover whom she hasn’t seen for years. After a few glasses of champagne in his luxurious hotel penthouse, he presents her with an intriguing offer: stay with him for the next 48 hours and accept two extraordinary conditions.

She knows he will challenge her every inhibition, but she soon finds herself seduced into a level of surrender – and danger – she could never have imagined .

Destined to Play is the first book in the Avalon trilogy exploring the intricate relationships between trust and betrayal, desire and love, risk …and reward.

If you liked Fifty Shades of Grey, you will love Destined to Play.

Click here to buy Destined to Play


Jennifer Scoullar, author of Brumby’s Run, answers Ten Terrifying Questions

The Booktopia Book Guru asks

 Jennifer Scoullar

author of Brumby’s Run

Ten Terrifying Questions


1. To begin with why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself – where were you born? Raised? Schooled?

I was born in Melbourne and raised in between our family’s house in town and our farm. When I left school I went to Monash University to study Law.

2. What did you want to be when you were twelve, eighteen and thirty? And why?

At 12, I wanted to be a vet, live in the country and write novels about animals.

At 18, I didn’t know what I wanted to be, but still wanted to live in the country and write novels about animals. I didn’t want to be a vet anymore because a) maths was too hard and b) sometimes people dispose of unwanted pets by euthanising them. I didn’t think I’d be able to do that.

At 30, I wanted to be a good mother, bring my children up in the country and write novels about rural Australia and the environment.

3. What strongly held belief did you have at eighteen that you do not have now?

At 18 I was a strident conservationist, in a hurry to change the world for the better in a big way.

I am still a committed conservationist, but now I understand that every little bit counts. We should celebrate even small advances towards a better world for our children. I love the story about the boy picking up stranded starfish  and throwing them back into the sea to save them. A man says to him, “This beach goes on for miles, and there are thousands of starfish. Your efforts are futile, it doesn’t make a difference!” The boy looked at the starfish in his hand and threw it into the water. “To this one,” he said, “it makes all the difference.” We fix the world one day at a time, one person at a time, one action at a time.

4. What were three works of art – book or painting or piece of music, etc – you can now say, had a great effect on you and influenced your own development as a writer?

The books of Elyne Mitchell – for her beautiful prose, and the way she unashamedly gave animals a voice.

The bush ballads of Banjo Paterson – for celebrating  the beauty of the outback and the courage and spirit of its inhabitants, both animals and people

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey – This book is essentially a love letter to the Utah desert. I was so inspired by Abbey’s sharp, poetic  style. He brought the reader as close as possible, without actually being there.

5. Considering the innumerable artistic avenues open to you, why did you choose to write a novel?

Everything happens just the way I want it to in my imaginary world. Nobody can tell me what to do. How good is that?

6. Please tell us about your latest novel…

Brumby’s Run is the story of a young woman named Samantha. She discovers she has a twin sister, Charlie, who is critically ill. City girl Sam soon finds herself running her sister’s farm, high in the Victorian alps. This new life, Charlie’s life, intrigues her. Bit by bit she falls in love with the mountains, the brumbies and with handsome neighbour Drew Chandler, her sister’s erstwhile lover. Sam begins to wish that Charlie might never come home…

The search for personal identity is a major theme. Brumby’s Run also looks at the damage family secrets can cause, and it explores our paradoxical relationship with animals and the environment.

(BBGuru: publisher’s blurb – A blissful carefree summer beckons for Samantha Carmichael. But her world is turned on its head when she learns she’s adopted – and that she has a twin sister, Charlie, who is critically ill.

While Charlie recovers in hospital, Sam offers to look after Brumby’s Run, her sister’s home high in the Victorian Alps. Within days city girl Sam finds herself breaking brumbies and running cattle with the help of handsome neighbour Drew Chandler, her sister’s erstwhile boyfriend.

A daunting challenge soon becomes a wholehearted tree change as Sam begins to fall in love with Brumby’s Run – and with Drew. But what will happen when Charlie comes back to claim what is rightfully hers?

Set among the hauntingly beautiful ghost gums and wild horses of the high country, Brumby’s Run is a heartfelt, romantic novel about families and secrets, love and envy and, most especially, the bonds of sisterhood. )

Click here to buy Brumby’s Run from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

7. What do you hope people take away with them after reading your work?

I hope readers take away an appreciation of Victoria’s beautiful upper Murray region, and the fabled wild horses of the high country. I also hope they are thoroughly entertained.

8. Whom do you most admire in the realm of writing and why?

It would be too simplistic to choose one person, but I do particularly admire Australian novelist, Andrea Goldsmith. She is a consummate observer of people and writes with great sophistication and emotional depth. I have learned such a lot from reading her books.

9. Many artists set themselves very ambitious goals. What are yours?

To finish my new novel in a timely manner.

10. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Read and write and read and write and don’t give up. It’s sometimes when you’re most disheartened, that a breakthrough happens – and try to shut up your internal critic.

Jennifer, thank you for playing.

Click here to buy Brumby’s Run from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Alyson Noël, Frank Moorhouse, and Derek Landy

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog.

My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and  Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


“To read as much as you can and to read outside of your comfort zone—the books you like as well as books you don’t like—they all have something to teach you.

Also, go easy on yourself. It’s so easy to get discouraged when your story fails to match the vision you hold in your head, but it’s important to remember that the majority of writing is rewriting—there’s no such thing as a pretty first draft, so cut yourself some slack and keep at it!”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Fated from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


Runner-up for the Miles Franklin Literary Award 2012

“Shed ideas of privacy and shame and live by candour as best you can in your writing and in your relationships – use the great freedom that we have.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Cold Light from Booktopia,
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop


“If you knock me off the Bestseller list I will hunt you down and kill you with a spoon.

Okay fine, that’s more of a threat than a piece of advice, so I’m also going to say write what you know. I never knew what that advice meant when I was starting out. I always thought write what you know was very restrictive. But I’ve since come to interpret it as put a little piece of yourself in everything you write. No matter if you’re writing about vampires or zombies or, in my case, living skeletons, so long as you include a sliver of raw honesty from your own life and your own experience, your story will mean something to someone.

But most of all, if you knock me off the Bestseller list I’ll kill you. Seriously. I will.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Skulduggery Pleasant: The End of the World from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Bookshop

For more advice from published writers go here

Congratulations to Anna Funder: Winner of The Miles Franklin Literary Award 2012 for All That I Am

Booktopia would like to congratulate Anna Funder for winning the 2012 Miles Franklin Literary Award with All That I Am… Congratulations!


Anna Funder – All That I Am

Ruth Becker, defiant and cantankerous, is living out her days in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. She has made an uneasy peace with the ghosts of her past – and a part of history that has been all but forgotten.

Another lifetime away, it’s 1939 and the world is going to war. Ernst Toller, self-doubting revolutionary and poet, sits in a New York hotel room settling up the account of his life.

When Toller’s story arrives on Ruth’s doorstep their shared past slips under her defences, and she’s right back among them – those friends who predicted the brutality of the Nazis and gave everything they had to stop them. Those who were tested – and in some cases found wanting – in the face of hatred, of art, of love, and of history. Click here to read more…

Anna answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of All That I Am


Tony Birch – Blood

From the moment he saw her, wrapped in a blanket at the hospital, Jesse knew that he’d be the one to look after his little sister, Rachel. Mum was always on the move and always bringing home trouble.

When his mum’s appetite for destruction leads the little family into the arms of Ray Crow, beneath the charm and charisma, Jesse sees the brooding violence and knows that, this time, the trouble is real.

But Jesse’s just a kid and even as he tries to save his sister, he makes a fatal error that exposes them to the kind of danger he has sworn to protect Rachel from. As their little world is torn to pieces, the children learn that, when you are lost and alone, the only thing you can trust is what’s in your blood. Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Blood

Gillian Mears – Foal’s Bread

The sound of horses’ hooves turns hollow on the farms west of Wirri. If a man can still ride, if he hasn’t totally lost the use of his legs, if he hasn’t died to the part of his heart that understands such things, then he should go for a gallop. At the very least he should stand at the road by the river imagining that he’s pushing a horse up the steep hill that leads to the house on the farm once known as One Tree.

Set in hardscrabble farming country and around the country show high-jumping circuit that prevailed in rural New South Wales prior to the Second World War, Foal’s Bread tells the story of two generations of the Nancarrow family and their fortunes as dictated by the vicissitudes of the land. Click here to read more…

Gillian answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Foal’s Bread

Frank Moorhouse – Cold Light

It is 1950, the League of Nations has collapsed and the newly formed United Nations has rejected all those who worked and fought for the League. Edith Campbell Berry, who joined the League in Geneva before the war, is out of a job, her vision shattered. With her sexually unconventional, husband, Ambrose, she comes back to Australia to live in Canberra.

Edith now has ambitions to become Australia’s first female ambassador, but while she waits for a Call from On High, she finds herself caught up in the planning of the national capital and the dream that it should be ‘a city like no other’.

When her communist brother, Frederick, turns up out of the blue after many years of absence, she becomes concerned that he may jeopardise her chances of becoming a diplomat. It is not a safe time to be a communist in Australia or to be related to one, but she refuses to be cowed by the anti-communist sentiment sweeping the country. Click here to read more…

Frank answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read his answers here
Click here to order your copy of Cold Light

Favel Parrett – Past the Shallows

Harry and Miles live with their father, an abalone fisherman, on the south-east coast of Tasmania. With their mum dead, they are left to look after themselves. When Miles isn’t helping out on the boat they explore the coast and Miles and his older brother, Joe, love to surf. Harry is afraid of the water.

Everyday their dad battles the unpredictable ocean to make a living. He is a hard man, a bitter drinker who harbours a devastating secret that is destroying him. Unlike Joe, Harry and Miles are too young to leave home and so are forced to live under the dark cloud of their father’s mood, trying to stay as invisible as possible whenever he is home. Harry, the youngest, is the most vulnerable and it seems he bears the brunt of his father’s anger. Click here to read more…

Favel answered the Ten Terrifying Questions – read her answers here
Click here to order your copy of Past the Shallows

Three Authors Offer Advice for Writers: Wilbur Smith, Michael Koryta and Alexandra Potter

I interview writers every week here on the Booktopia Blog. My Ten Terrifying Questions have been answered by over 250 published authors ranging from mega selling global stars like Jackie Collins and Lee Child to brilliant, relatively unknown debut authors such as Miles Franklin shortlisted Favel Parret and  Rebecca James.

In each of these interviews I ask the following question:

Q. What advice do you give aspiring writers?

Now, for the edification of aspiring writers everywhere, I will pull together answers to this question from three very different writers and post them here once week. Some will inspire, some will confound but all will be interesting and helpful in their own way…


“It’s not a game for sissies. If at first you don’t succeed try! Try! And then try some more.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Those in Peril from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Bookshop


“Write every day, for as much time as you can spare, because it isn’t a craft that can be learned through random bursts of creativity, but rather slow, steady, and focused efforts. Read in as wide a range as possible, read interviews with the writers you admire, try to find out as much as possible about the process. The craft should be viewed as a constant education.”

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy The Ridge from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Bookshop


“I get a lot of emails to website ( asking for advice on how to get a novel published. And I say the same thing over and over: If I can do it, so you can you. But you have to really REALLY want it.

I love being a writer, but it’s not all about book launches and bestseller lists and glossy interviews. Writing isn’t glamorous. In fact most of the time it can be deeply frustrating, lonely, terrifying and long… very, very long. A book takes me eighteen months from start to finish and a lot of that time is spent battling writer’s book and thinking it’s all a big mistake and is anyone ever going to read this!

So you have to be determined. You have to keep putting in the hours, even when you only have one deleted sentence at the end of a weekend you’d devoted to writing a whole chapter. You have to believe you can do it, even when that inner critical voice of yours is yelling, ‘Give up! It’s rubbish’.

And you just have to keep writing. Day in, day out. Like you’re running a marathon. A few words. A line. A whole paragraph. Until one day you will finally reach the finishing line, and you will look up from your computer screen and realise that all those words have made a novel. And the pain will all have been worth it. Trust me. There is no feeling in the world like it.

Just don’t give up.

Read the full interview here…

Click here to buy Going La La from Booktopia
Australia’s No.1 Online Book Shop

For more advice from published writers go here

Congratulations to Madeline Miller who has won the Orange Prize for Fiction 2012 for The Song of Achilles

The Orange Prize for Fiction Winner 2012

From the Orange Prize website: 19.15pm, London, 30 May 2012 — American author Madeline Miller has won the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction with her debut novel The Song of Achilles (Bloomsbury).

2012 marks the seventeenth year of the Orange Prize, which celebrates excellence, originality and accessibility in women’s writing from throughout the world.

At an awards ceremony at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre, London – hosted by Orange Prize for Fiction Co-Founder and Honorary Director, Kate Mosse – the 2012 Chair of Judges, Joanna Trollope, presented the author with the £30,000 prize and the ‘Bessie’, a limited edition bronze figurine. Both are anonymously endowed.

Joanna Trollope, Chair of Judges, said: “This is a more than worthy winner — original, passionate, inventive and uplifting. Homer would be proud of her.”

The Orange Prize for Fiction was set up in 1996 to celebrate and promote fiction written by women throughout the world to the widest range of readers possible. The Orange Prize is awarded to the best novel of the year written in English by a woman.

From the Guardian:

There seems something almost culturally inevitable about the fact that Madeline Miller, a Massachusetts teacher of Latin and Greek, has won the Orange prize with her first novel, The Song of Achilles. The book, which weaves a compelling story about Patroclus, a crucial yet fleetingly described character in Homer’s Iliad, joins a throng of recent works, all indebted to the epic poem, that have captured the imagination of the public and critics alike. Others include David Malouf’s melancholic novel Ransom, Alice Oswald’s diamond-cut poem Memorial, and Caroline Alexander’s admired non-fiction work The War That Killed Achilles.

Why the interest? We live in an age of cultural conflict, of wars pitching the east against the west. The Iliad – a foundational text of European literature – is still the greatest of all war poems, ready to be read afresh, and from a different perspective, by each generation. Alexander the Great, no peacenik, slept with a copy under his pillow. Today’s Iliad readers are more likely to draw from it a sense of the pity, grief, and waste of war.

Miller asks: who was Patroclus? Where did he come from? What was his experience of the war? What was the love between Achilles and Patroclus that caused Achilles to feel such overwhelming lust for revenge, such pounding grief, when his companion fell? In spinning her tale of boyhood, friendship and sexual passion – all played out against an exquisitely realised vision of the Greek landscape – Miller never drops a note. You don’t need to have read the Iliad to enjoy this novel, but chances are you’ll want to pick up Homer when you’ve finished. Read more…

The Song of Achilles

by Madeline Miller

A breathtakingly original rendering of the Trojan War – a devastating love story and a tale of gods and kings, immortal fame and the human heart

Greece in the age of Heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia. Here he is nobody, just another unwanted boy living in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles.Achilles, ‘best of all the Greeks’, is everything Patroclus is not – strong, beautiful, the child of a goddess – and by all rights their paths should never cross. Yet one day, Achilles takes the shamed prince under his wing and soon their tentative companionship gives way to a steadfast friendship.

As they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something far deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel and deathly pale sea goddess with a hatred of mortals. Fate is never far from the heels of Achilles. When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece are called upon to lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause.

Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

About the Author

Madeline Miller has a BA and MA from Brown University in Latin and Ancient Greek, and has been teaching both for the past nine years. She has also studied at the Yale School of Drama, specialising in adapting classical tales to a modern audience. The Song of Achilles is her first novel.

Click here to read more…

Click here to read an extract

Madeline has answered the Booktopia Book Guru’s Ten Terrifying Questions, click here

Click here to buy The Song of Achilles from Booktopia, Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop


Esi Edugyan – Half Blood Blues

This is a new part of an old story: 1930s Berlin, the threat of imprisonment and the powerful desire to make something beautiful despite the horror.

Chip told us not to go out. Said, don’t you boys tempt the devil. But it been one brawl of a night, I tell you.

The aftermath of the fall of Paris, 1940. Hieronymous Falk, a rising star on the cabaret scene, was arrested in a cafe and never heard from again.

He was twenty years old. He was a German citizen. And he was black.

Fifty years later, Sid, Hiero’s bandmate and the only witness that day, is going back to Berlin. Persuaded by his old friend Chip, Sid discovers there’s more to the journey than he thought when Chip shares a mysterious letter, bringing to the surface secrets buried since Hiero’s fate was settled. In “Half Blood Blues”, Esi Edugyan weaves the horror of betrayal, the burden of loyalty and the possibility that, if you don’t tell your story, someone else might tell it for you.

And they just might tell it wrong…

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Half Blood Blues

Anne Enright – The Forgotten Waltz

The Forgotten Waltz is a memory of desire: a recollection of the bewildering speed of attraction, the irreparable slip into longing. In Terenure, a pleasant suburb of Dublin, in the winter of 2009,it has snowed. Gina Moynihan, girl about town, recalls the trail of lust and happenstance that brought her to fall for ‘the love of her life’, Seán Vallely. As the city outside comes to a halt, Gina remembers the days of their affair in one hotel room or another: long afternoons made blank by bliss and denial.

Now, as the silent streets and the stillness and vertigo of the falling snow make the day luminous and full of possibility, Gina waits the arrival on her doorstep of Seán’s fragile, twelve-year-old daughter, Evie – the complication, and gravity, of this second life.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of The Forgotten Waltz

Georgina Harding – Painter of Silence

When she leaves the ward she feels the whiteness of the room still inside her, as if she is bleached out inside. It is the shock, she tells herself. She feels the whiteness like a dam holding back all the coloured flood of memory.

1948. A man is found on the steps of the hospital in Iasi, Romania. Wet with morning dew, he is as frail as a fallen bird and utters no words. It is days before anyone realises that he is deaf and mute. The ward sister, Adriana, whose son still has not returned from the war in Russia, sits at the man’s bedside and whispers to him, keeping herself company. But it is a young nurse called Safta who thinks to bring paper and pencils with which he might draw. Slowly, painstakingly, memories appear on the page: a hillside, a stable, a racing car, a grand house as it was before everything changed for ever.

The man is Augustin, the son of a cook at the manor house in Dumbraveni where Safta was the privileged daughter. Born six months apart, they had a connection that bypassed words, but while Augustin’s world stayed the same size Safta’s expanded to embrace languages, society, the breathless possibility of Paris. And love, one dappled summer’s day, in the form of a fleeting young man in a green Lagonda.

Pictures are always in the present. But a war has raged and ebbed since those days, leaving in its wake a new, Communist regime. Walls have ears, words and images are more dangerous than ever before, and even neighbours with old-world mirrors and samovars cannot be trusted.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Painter of Silence

Cynthia Ozick – Foreign Bodies

The collapse of her brief marriage has stalled Bea Nightingale’s life, leaving her middle-aged and alone, teaching in an impoverished borough of 1950s New York. A plea from her estranged brother gives Bea the excuse to escape lassitude by leaving for Paris to retrieve a nephew she barely knows; but the siren call of Europe threatens to deafen Bea to the dangers of entangling herself in the lives of her brother’s family.

Travelling from America to France, Bea leaves the stigma of divorce on the far side of the Atlantic; newly liberated, she chooses to defend her nephew and his girlfriend Lili by waging a war of letters on the brother she has promised to help. But Bea’s generosity is a mixed blessing: those she tries to help seem to be harmed, and as Bea’s family unravel from around her, she finds herself once again drawn to the husband she thought she had left in the past…

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of Foreign Bodies

Ann Patchett – State of Wonder

There were people on the banks of the river.

Among the tangled waterways and giant anacondas of the Brazilian Rio Negro, an enigmatic scientist is developing a drug that could alter the lives of women for ever. Dr Annick Swenson’s work is shrouded in mystery; she refuses to report on her progress, especially to her investors, whose patience is fast running out. Anders Eckman, a mild-mannered lab researcher, is sent to investigate. A curt letter reporting his untimely death is all that returns.

Now Marina Singh, Anders’s colleague and once a student of the mighty Dr Swenson, is their last hope. Compelled by the pleas of Anders’s wife, who refuses to accept that her husband is not coming home, Marina leaves the snowy plains of Minnesota and retraces her friend’s steps into the heart of the South American darkness, determined to track down Dr. Swenson and uncover the secrets being jealously guarded among the remotest tribes of the rainforest.

What Marina does not yet know is that, in this ancient corner of the jungle, where the muddy waters and susurrating grasses hide countless unknown perils and temptations, she will face challenges beyond her wildest imagination. Marina is no longer the student, but only time will tell if she has learnt enough.

Click here to read more…

Click here to order your copy of State of Wonder

REVIEW: Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady (Guest Blogger: Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling)

In Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady, Kate Summerscale casts a spotlight on a little known chapter in history. This is a very thoroughly researched case study detailing the true story of an unhappily married woman in Victorian Society.  In this, the age of Cougar TownSex and the City and Desperate Housewives, when women are applauded for chasing younger men and practically expected to experience dissatisfaction in their marriage, the idea of a woman keeping a diary of her extra martial affairs is not really very shocking. In fact, it sounds like the plot to the next Katherine Heigl movie.

In 1850s England, however, such an idea was enough to stop the press. Although a woman sat on the throne, this was an age in which woman did not yet have the right to vote. As Kate Summerscale’s research shows us, this was also an age in which any woman who was known to desire a man she was not married to was deemed to be suffering from sexual mania, in which PMS was actually considered to be a mental disorder that might land a woman in an asylum. Most of all, it was an age in which a lady’s husband was her lord and master.

Marriage, in the words of Queen Victoria herself, can be “a very doubtful happiness”. Still, in Victorian England, divorce was very rare. Not only did the social stigma of a failed marriage make divorce virtually unthinkable, most people simply couldn’t afford to get divorced. Divorce was such a lengthy and expensive process that it simply wasn’t an option outside of the aristocracy, who were ironically less inclined to go through the scandal of a divorce than unhappily married people of the lower classes. In the 1850s new laws were passed in order to make divorce cheaper and therefore more accessible to the middle class.

The first half of Summerscale’s book outlines the true story of Isabella Robinson, a women in her early thirties who had just entered into her second marriage. Like most marriages of the time, it was a marriage of convenience. Isabella’s husband could provide her with financial security, but very little else. Being an intelligent and passionate woman at her sexual peak, Isabella (trail blazing for generations of “cougars” to follow) soon finds herself lusting after a young man ten years her junior. Her obsession with him begins to rule her life and she pours all her repressed passion and frustrated sexual energy into her diary. When her husband finds her diary, he announces his intention to divorce her.

The second half of the book follows the explosive divorce trial. The case rests on proving whether or not Isabella’s diary is true. If it was true then she cheated on her husband and he can therefore divorce her on the grounds of adultery. If it’s not true then (according to Victorian society) she is obviously a madwoman suffering  from a sexual mania such as erotomania or nyphomania and therefore cannot be held legally responsible for her actions.

Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady might be non-fiction but it reads very much like a novel. For those who see the words “historical non-fiction” and immediately start snoring – don’t be too hasty to judge! This is an exciting story of scandal and intrigue, as well as a riveting courtroom drama. And on top of that, it is truly a revealing snapshot of Victorian times with cameo appearances from notable historical figures such as Charles Darwin and Charles Dickens.

Summerscale’s research is impressive. She has gone to extraordinary lengths compiling letters, newspaper clippings, public records and census information in order to build a really solid social and historical framework through which to view Mrs. Robinson’s story.

Still, throughout everything, Isabella Robinson remains something of a mystery. With her original diary lost, sadly all that remains of her words are the sections that were printed in the newspapers during the divorce trial. From Summerscale’s account, Isabella emerges as a woman full of contradictions. Impulsive and creative, selfish and hysterical, in ways born ahead of her times and in others wholly a product of her times – all that can be said for certain about Isabella Robinson is that she was very unhappy in what she called “the bonds of a dreaded wedlock”.

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady is that it gives readers a rare glimpse into the sheer wealth of feeling that went unspoken during this time period. Here is proof that people in Victorian times were not really all that different from people nowadays. Isabella Robinson was an emotionally intense woman who either led a very rich fantasy life, or conducted multiple extra martial affairs (it is unclear how much of her diary was true and how much was simply “make-believe”). Either way, she clearly had just as many issues going on as the average modern woman. She was simply better at hiding her issues because she lived in a society in which any kind of strong emotional display was considered “bad manners”. This was a time when one avoided airing ones dirty laundry at all costs, let alone plastering it all over Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The idea of a Victorian woman obsessing over a younger man and feverishly detailing her sexual fantasies about him in her diary is just… well it’s like imagining Queen Victoria shopping for naughty lingerie, or Charles Darwin reading dirty magazines. It’s shocking, and fascinating and strangely comforting. It’s nice to think that perhaps our ancestors weren’t quite as stuffy and dull as they appear to be in all those old back and white pictures.

Summerscale’s previous book, The Suspicions of Mr Wicher, is said to be a study of the real life detective who inspired the character of Sherlock Holmes. In this same vein, Isabella Robinson could easily be said to have inspired characters like Madame Bovary and Lady Chatterley. But the best thing about Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady is the realisation that Isabella Robinson probably wasn’t all that different from the average Victorian woman. In fact, the only real difference was that the average Victorian woman was a little more clever about hiding her diary.

Guest Reviewer: Booktopia’s Sarah McDuling

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Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale

From the bestselling, multi-award-winning author of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher comes a brand new true story of a Victorian scandal.

On a mild winter’s evening in 1850, Isabella Robinson set out for a party. Her carriage bumped across the wide cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town and drew up at 8 Royal Circus, a grand sandstone house lit by gas lamps. This was the home of the rich widow Lady Drysdale, a vivacious hostess whose soirees were the centre of an energetic intellectual scene.

Lady Drysdale’s guests were gathered in the high, airy drawing rooms on the first floor, the ladies in dresses of glinting silk and satin, bodices pulled tight over boned corsets; the gentlemen in tailcoats, waistcoats, neckties and pleated shirt fronts, dark narrow trousers and shining shoes. When Mrs Robinson joined the throng she was introduced to Lady Drysdale’s daughter and son-in-law, Mary and Edward Lane. She was at once enchanted by the handsome Mr Lane, a medical student ten years her junior. He was ‘fascinating’, she told her diary, before chastising herself for being so susceptible to a man’s charms. But a wish had taken hold of her, which she was to find hard to shake…

A compelling story of romance and fidelity, insanity, fantasy, and the boundaries of privacy in a society clinging to rigid ideas about marriage and female sexuality, Mrs Robinson’s Disgrace brings vividly to life a complex, frustrated Victorian wife, longing for passion and learning, companionship and love.

About the Author

Kate Summerscale is the author of the number one bestselling The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, winner of the Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction 2008, a Richard & Judy Book Club pick and adapted into a major ITV drama. Her first book, The Queen of Whale Cay, won a Somerset Maugham award and was shortlisted for the Whitbread biography award. Kate Summerscale has also judged various literary competitions including the Booker Prize. She lives in London.

Click here to order Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace from Booktopia,
Australia’s No. 1 Online Book Shop


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