Arnold, Gaynor. 2008. Girl In A Blue Dress. Crown Publishing. 414 pages.
My husband's funeral is today. And I'm sitting here alone in my upstairs room while half of London follows him to his grave. I should be angry, I suppose.
Loosely based on the wife of Charles Dickens--their broken marriage--it is the story of Dorothea "Dodo" and Alfred Gibson. Alfred Gibson is the One and Only, an author esteemed by just about everybody, everywhere. But what is his home life like? What kind of father is he? What kind of husband?
The book is retrospective. Dodo begins her story with Alfred's death. She's not attending the funeral. Since the separation--when he forced her out of his life and out of the lives of their children--she's not seen him or heard from him. Her life is lonely and sad. She clings to what once was. She holds on to the fact that at one time, he did love her, did need her, did want her. Despite what he's said recently. Despite how he's treated her.
The novel is the story of redemption--in a way--how Dodo is able to pick up the pieces--after his death--and reconnect with those she's lost contact with, especially her children. The conversations she has with her children--mainly all grown up now--are intriguing in a way. It is interesting to see how each one viewed their famous dad. How he was both loved and hated. How he was both charming and not-so-much. How his selfishness impacted them all. Yet how in spite of how he treated his family, how he could be a good man, a great man. Showing friendship and compassion to others--especially those down on their luck.
The book was an interesting read. I almost wish it didn't say that it was loosely based on Catherine Dickens. That had me guessing throughout the entire book how much was based on truth, on fact, (though the names are changed), and how much was pure fiction and speculation. How closely does Alfred resemble Charles? How closely does Dodo resemble Catherine? How much is really known about their courtship and marriage? It made me want to read more about the real Dickens.
Still, I have to admit it was a good read for me.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
Dallas Book Festival
3 hours ago