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The Criminal Conversation of Mrs. Norton: Victorian England's "Scandal of the Century" and the Fallen Socialite Who Changed Women's Lives Forever Hardcover – September 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press; First Edition, First US edition (September 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1613748809
  • ISBN-13: 978-1613748800
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,108,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Historian Atkinson builds an impressive biography around a scandalous early court case that titillated the collective sensibilities of early Victorian-era England. In 1836, George Norton brought suit against Prime Minister Lord Melbourne for having criminal conversation, aka sexual relations, with his wife, well-known author Caroline Norton. Though the suit was thrown out by the jury, its impact was long-lasting, reverberating through both legal and social circles for years and altering the course of feminist history. Thrown out of her home and denied access to her children, Caroline engaged in inveterate campaigning that led directly to the Custody of Infants Act of 1839, the Matrimonial Causes Act of 1857, and the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870. As Atkinson reviews Caroline’s life, a robust portrait emerges of a woman who refused to be circumscribed by the restrictive social mores and legal inequities of her time and place in history. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

"Lively, entertaining, and filled with rivetingly weird details. . . . Atkinson's book pays tribute to a neglected heroine." —Sunday Times


"Important and definitive, this beautifully written and extremely entertaining book resurrects a nineteenth-century heroine for the twenty-first century." –Amanda Foreman, author of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire


“It is a brave book, written with verve and veracity.” —The Times

"Expertly researched and finely written. . . . Mrs Norton’s journey from abused wife to passionate reformer is as moving as it is fascinating, and Atkinson’s richly detailed work does her subject the justice she deserves." —BBC History Magazine


“An impressive biography" and "a robust portrait…of a woman who refused to be circumscribed by the restrictive social mores and legal inequities of her time and place in history.” —Booklist

“Well-researched” and “recommended for women’s studies scholars, legal scholars, and academics.” —Library Journal

“This beautifully written and fascinating book is a window to the times and an important addition to women's history.” —Book News, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Scott Richards on September 24, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A totally captivating book, chock full of interesting details about 19th century English society and mores. A great story of an unsung heroine. The Criminal Conversation is just as intriguing as Dangerous Liaisons.
This is a brilliantly written, historical account on the life of Caroline Norton, the first woman to change divorce and custody laws in England. Through extensive research of the correspondence between Caroline Norton and her family and friends, the writer Diane Atkinson, illustrates Mrs. Norton's plight as a beautiful society lady, abused wife, accomplished writer and relentless pioneer for all women in Victorian England. No matter how immoral their husbands might have been, women did not have the option to file for divorce, hold any right to their personal property and most of all have custody of their children. Caroline Norton was accused by her slovenly husband of having an affair with Lord Melbourne, the Prime Minster of England, who happened to be a family friend. Although it could not be substantiated in court, the affair stained Mrs. Norton reputation, shunning her from high society and leaving her unable to divorce her husband or receive any support after their separation. Moreover, she was not allowed to see her young children, who were mercilessly mistreated by careless relatives. It is a heartbreaking story, but the genial Mrs. Norton manages to secure a living by writing popular novels, like a 19th century Danielle Steel, and utilizes her wit and connections to finally reverse the law in her favor. Because of Caroline Norton's motherly love, British Parliament granted women the right to raise their children after a divorce and to hold on to their personal wealth. I loved this book and read it from cover to cover!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Pamela Robarge on February 13, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Very well written and fast moving book. A lot of historical detail that was NOT dry and boring. It was hard to put this book down.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It was very boring. I did not finish it. I chose it for the history, but it seemed as if it was never going to get to the point of the story.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating tale that is mired in extraneous detail. A good edit would have enormously helped this story. It is like reading someone's dissertation. There is so much irreverent research that just drags the story down and makes it ponderous to read. I couldn't wait to finish it...ugh! What a total waste of an opportunity to entertain as well as inform the reader. Cut this down to half the length and present as an historical novel or even an interesting biography and you would have a winner. I was generous to give it 3 stars.
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