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Fred & Edie Hardcover – Bargain Price, October 31, 2001

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Hardcover, Bargain Price, October 31, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dawson's third novel (after Tricks of the Light and Magpie) strikingly and elegantly blends fact and fiction in a reimagining of the events surrounding the spectacular 1922 London trial of Edith Thompson and her lover, Frederick Bywaters, who were convicted and hanged for murdering Edith's husband, Percy. Told primarily in letters Edie writes to her "darlint" Freddy while they are both imprisoned, the story offers a moving portrait of domestic tragedy and an understated but penetrating social commentary. Actual newspaper accounts and a few excerpts from the real Edith Thompson's letters are interspersed throughout; ironically, perhaps, they are less interesting less convincing, even than the fictional material Dawson attributes to Edie. Defiant, intelligent Edie finds solace in writing and in reliving her doomed but passionate affair with Freddy, a ship's steward seven years her junior who had been her sister's "paramour" first. Her language full of longing, rich with metaphor is stunning, and her increasing understanding of brutish Percy, callow Freddy, herself and human nature in general is almost redemptive. In a letter that Freddy never receives, she writes: "We had our happiness didn't we, the light might shine through it sometimes but it was green and fresh and unbending as a blade of grass, wasn't it, Freddy, while it lasted?" It is a testimony to Dawson's abilities that even though the novel must advance toward an inevitable conclusion, its story is gripping, surprising and beautiful. 5-city author tour, national advertising. (Sept.)Forecast: This title was a finalist for the Whitbread Prize; a film (Another Life) based on the same incidents premiered in the U.K. and is scheduled for U.S. release this year. Though set 80 years ago in England, the novel should draw a contemporary American audience given the controversy that continues to surround the issue of capital punishment.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From The New Yorker

In 1922, Edith Thompson, a millinery clerk, and Frederick Bywaters, who worked in a ship's laundry, were arraigned in the Old Bailey for the stabbing death of Edie's loutish husband, Percy—he as the perpetrator and she as co-conspirator. The case was sensational, involving not only adultery and incriminating letters but also a double betrayal (Freddy was the boyfriend of Edie's sister Avis). Many believed that Edie was innocent, indicted on moral but not criminal grounds. Piecing together contemporary news accounts and the gist of Edie's notes to Freddy from Holloway Gaol, Dawson has fashioned an epistolary novel marked by an almost unfaltering grasp of period atmosphere—the trolley ride, the felt cloche—and a consummate knowledge of erotic obsession.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • ISBN-10: 156649222X
  • ASIN: B000J3EGI0
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,644,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Fred & Edie, a finalist for both the Whitbread Award and the Orange Prize, deserves evry accolade it receives...and more! This novel tells the story of Edith Thompson and her young lover, Frederick Bywaters, who were arrested convicted, and executed for the murder of Edith's husband, Percy. Jill Dawson skillfully mixes fact and fiction, including letters from the prisoners and newspaper articles, to keep the reader mesmerized throughout.

London as it must have been in the 1920s comes alive. We see, through the author's character development and attention to detail, how a woman was treated in marriage, in the court system, and in newspapers with their lurid headlines calculated to sell the most possible copies. "Poison Detected" is one headline; "Mrs. Thompson in Tears" is another. It is not expected that one feel sympathy for Edie (after all, an unrepentant murderess) but she is a beautifully drawn, complex, perplexing, and utterly unforgettable character.

The supporting characters, especially Edie's younger sister Avis, and the prison chaplin, Piper, are equally interesting and add much to the story. Be sure to read Edie's last letter to Avis, in one sense also a victim, but likewise a survivor in her own right. The afterword also offers pertinent information on some of the people involved with the real-life case, and other sources for further reading.

Fred and Edie is a book that you will want to return to again and again.
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Format: Paperback
I couldn't put this novel down; it followed Edith Thompson through her 3 months in jail accused of involvement in her husband's murder. In letters to her younger lover-and accomplice -Frederick Bywaters, Dawson recreates their relationship and the romantic yearnings of a woman stifled in an unhappy marriage.
From early certainty that she will get off to an increasing and horrific awareness that death awaits them both:
'When I remember the summer we spent in Shanklin I picture that photograph we had taken on the beach, all four of us. Percy sucking on his pipe and Freddy squinting into the sun and me without a hat and you, you broad-brimmed and healthy, clutching at your white gloves. I try to keep from thinking this, but the thought won't stay away. That a year from now, of the four of us, only you will be able to look at that photograph again.'
Incidentally, just as good, if not better, is F. Tennyson Jesse's novel 'A Pin to see the Peepshow' which covers the same case.
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By A Customer on November 10, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Fred and Edie is based on the real life murder case of Frederick Bywaters and Edith Thompson who were hanged for the murder of Edie's husband Percy in 1920's England. Jill Dawson deftly blends factual material such as newspaper articles with fictional material in order to not only tell the tale of the lovers themselves, but to give the reader an insight into the lives of women during that era. How many women, like Edie, we wonder, married for stability and social conventions in order to find themselves trapped in loveless, violent marriages? Escape, appears to come for Edie in the shape of her sister's young boyfriend, Fred, with whom she has a passionate love affair. However, Percy refuses to grant her a divorce,a refusal that ultimately leads to the tragic deaths of all three of them.
Branded "silly and vain" at the start of the novel, we see Edie achieving emotional maturity and insight through a series of letters she writes to Fred from her prison cell. Issues of her culpability, sexuality and the role of women in this pre-feminist society are gradually revealed to us, leaving us wondering if she was a cold calculating killer or the victim of a society that denied her justice.
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Format: Paperback
Building this book on the skeleton of Edith Thompson's letters to her lover, Jill Dawson has presented us with the thoughts and feelings of Edith as she waits in Holloway after her arrest for supposedly inciting her lover to murder her husband. Her greatest misfortune was to be born at the wrong time : nowadays a trial for murder would not involve value judgements about the accused's adultery, abortion or passionate letters to her paramour. But it is these which really condemned her in the eyes of the judge, jury and popular press.

Unlike F. Tennyson Jesse's "A Pin to See the Peepshow", this account does not deal with her early, unhappy childhood but still makes it clear that she married Percy because that was the only escape route she could see from a miserable and narrow home-life. That Percy turned out to be the last person a highly strung, fantasy loving and passionate woman should have married was the second blow dealt her by an unkind fate. The third was to allow her develop an unrealistic relationship with a much younger man who took her outbursts of fantasy literally and was also wound up to breaking point by her coded references to her husband's brutalities. Divorce, of course, was not a feasible option for the respectable middle-classes.

By using an epistolary style, Jill Dawson allows us to see all the action vividly through the eyes of her protagonist but it does leave the other characters slightly in the shadow.
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Format: Paperback
Pretty good true story about a late-thirties well-to-do english woman who is married to a not-so-perfect man and finds herself a lover (younger sister's boyfriend). It all ends in tragedy with three out of the four people involved in these couples winds up dead.
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