Friday, June 15, 2012

Friday Freebie: Half in Shade by Judith Kitchen and Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace by Kate Summerscale

Congratulations to Claire Dressman, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington.

This week's book giveaway is another two-fer deal.  This week, one lucky reader has the chance to win a copy of both Half In Shade: Family, Photography, and Fate by Judith Kitchen and Mrs. Robinson's Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Lady by Kate Summerscale.  Both non-fiction books center around the value of family, focusing on lives in the two centuries we've just left in our rearview mirror.  Both books come highly recommended by yours truly.  Here are the plot summaries from the publishers (Coffee House Press and Bloomsbury):

When Judith Kitchen discovered boxes of family photos in her mother's closet, it sparked curiosity and speculation.  Piecing together her memories with the physical evidence in the photos, Kitchen explores the gray areas between the present and the past, family and self, certainty and uncertainty.  The result is a lyrical, ennobling anatomy of a heritage, family, mother-daughter relationships, and the recovery from an illness that captures with precision the forces of the heart and mind when “none of us knows what lies beyond the moment, outside the frame.”  Stuart Dybek praised Half in Shade by saying, “Judith Kitchen has written a book that is at once clear and accessible and at the same time insistently complex.  Her effortlessly constructed hybrids make Half in Shade part memoir, part speculation, part essay, a demonstration of the interactive art of seeing, and finally for me, a beautifully sustained meditation.  It is at that meditative level that the book’s potent, unsentimental emotive power gathers.”

Headstrong, high-spirited, and already widowed, Isabella Walker became Mrs. Henry Robinson at age 31 in 1844.  Her first husband had died suddenly, leaving his estate to a son from a previous marriage, so she inherited nothing.  A successful civil engineer, Henry moved them, by then with two sons, to Edinburgh’s elegant society in 1850.  But Henry traveled often and was cold and remote when home, leaving Isabella to her fantasies.  No doubt thousands of Victorian women faced the same circumstances, but Isabella chose to record her innermost thoughts—and especially her infatuation with a married Dr. Edward Lane—in her diary.  Over five years the entries mounted—passionate, sensual, suggestive.  One fateful day in 1858 Henry chanced on the diary and, broaching its privacy, read Isabella's intimate entries.  Aghast at his wife’s perceived infidelity, Henry petitioned for divorce on the grounds of adultery.  Until that year, divorce had been illegal in England, the marital bond being a cornerstone of English life.  Their trial would be a cause celebre, threatening the foundations of Victorian society with the specter of  “a new and disturbing figure: a middle class wife who was restless, unhappy, avid for arousal.”  Her diary, read in court, was as explosive as Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, just published in France but considered too scandalous to be translated into English until the 1880s.  As she accomplished in her award-winning and bestselling The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher, Kate Summerscale brilliantly recreates the Victorian world, chronicling in exquisite and compelling detail the life of Isabella Robinson, wherein the longings of a frustrated wife collided with a society clinging to rigid ideas about sanity, the boundaries of privacy, the institution of marriage, and female sexuality.

If you'd like a chance at winning a copy of both books, simply email your name and mailing address to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until midnight on June 21--at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on June 22.  If you'd like to join the mailing list for the once-a-week Quivering Pen newsletter, simply add the words "Sign me up for the newsletter" in the body of your email.  Your email address and other personal information will never be sold or given to a third party (except in those instances where the publisher requires a mailing address for sending Friday Freebie winners copies of the book).

Want to double your odds of winning?  Get an extra entry in the contest by posting a link to this webpage on your blog, your Facebook wall or by tweeting it on Twitter.  Once you've done either or both of those, send me an additional e-mail saying "I've shared" and I'll put your name in the hat twice.

No comments:

Post a Comment