Far Above Rubies by Anne-Marie Vukelic
|Far Above Rubies by Anne-Marie Vukelic|
|Genre: Historical Fiction|
|Reviewer: Katie Pullen|
|Summary: A short yet credible fictional account of Catherine Dickens’ life as the wife of one of our most famous authors, Charles Dickens.|
|Buy? Maybe||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 224||Date: May 2010|
|Publisher: Robert Hale Ltd|
I know absolutely nothing about Catherine Dickens so it was with great interest that I picked this book out of the bookbag and started to read. I had imagined that as the wife of Charles Dickens Catherine’s life must have been fairly interesting and colourful, but this fictional account, told by Catherine through her journal tells a very different story.
Shy Catherine Hogarth first meets Charles Dickens at her parents' house when he hilariously comes in through the window to dance a jig before the assembled guests, before leaving and then entering again via the front door. Employed by her father George, the editor of the Evening Chronicle, as a reporter and sketch writer, Charles is at the start of his writing career and soon becomes a regular visitor to the Hogarth household.
Catherine, or Kate as Charles calls her, is soon married to Charles, and although they are in love she realises she hardly knows him. As we follow Kate recounting her life with Charles, as he becomes a celebrated writer, she does her best to be the perfect wife. But it seems that even moulding herself to be what Charles wants can only end in disaster.
Kate’s personality is in full evidence through the pages of her journal and I found her immediately likeable. She is an intelligent and timid creature on the surface, but is full of insecurities and jealousies, most notably as a result of Charles' close relationship with her sister Mary. This jealousy plagues her and becomes compounded as the years go by, as Charles shows a great deal of interest in many women during their marriage including Queen Victoria. But to avoid Charles' temper and petulant ways Catherine pushes her feelings away and feels unable to stand up for herself. She also puts her own opinions and needs to one side in order to please only Charles and as a result Charles becomes incredibly demanding and at times unreasonable. What we are left with is rather a sad and lonely life for Catherine and I felt great empathy for her especially as she has no career of her own and Charles has no interest in involving her in his.
What impressed me immediately about this novel was that Vukelic gets straight into the action when Charles bursts into the Hogarth's drawing room and continues in this way as we race through Catherine’s life as Charles' wife and all the ups and downs that went with it. Vukelic effortlessly weaves in fact with her fictional account of Catherine's life and even provides a handy appendix at the end for readers keen to establish which bits of the book are based on factual evidence.
However, at times the events in Catherine’s life seem a little rushed or skimmed over and there are huge chunks of time unaccounted for. Vukelic seems to barely scratch the surface of Catherine’s life and I was left wondering many things about her that perhaps a more accomplished writer may have dealt with. The ten children she has are hardly mentioned, nor are Charles' books and her opinion of them, and there are many episodes such as their trip to America, which could have gone on for a fair few chapters more. However, despite these niggles this really is an impressive and engrossing read that left me eager to find out more about Catherine and the life she shared with one of our most famous writers.
I’d like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If you like the sound of this book you may also enjoy Eden's Outcasts: The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father by John Matteson. Fans of Dickens may also enjoy Drood by Dan Simmons.
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