Victorian Childhoods

Victorian Childhoods

Victorian Childhoods

Victorian Childhoods

Synopsis

If you were to ask me to tell you about my wife, I would have to warn you at the outset that I don't know a great deal about her. Or at least, not as much as I thought I did...' So speaks Alex, the narrator of this unforgettable literary thriller. A London lawyer in his early thirties, Alex is a solitary man who finally finds love in the form of his beautiful and vivacious wife, Rachel. Less than a year after their marriage, the two of them return together to Worcester College, Oxford, where they once studied. After dinner that midsummer night Rachel is brutally murdered beside the lake and Alex's life as he knew it vanishes.The following winter he returns to Oxford and, through the shroud of his shock and grief, tries to piece together the mystery surrounding Rachel's death. Playing host to Alex's winter visit is Harry, Rachel's former tutor and trusted mentor, who turns out to have been involved in some way in almost every significant development of their relationship throughout their undergraduate years. Alex is also assisted in his navigation of Rachel's history by Evie, Rachel's self-centred and difficult godmother, whose jealousy of her charge has waxed and waned over the years.And then there are her university friends, Anthony and Cissy, who shared with Rachel her love of Browning and a taste for the illicit.As Alex delves deep into the past to uncover shocking secrets and constantly shifting versions of the truth, it is with these virtual strangers as his guides that he begins to confront the terrifying reality that neither his life, nor his love, are the things he thought they were.

Excerpt

The history of nineteenth-century Britain fascinates for many reasons. It is long enough ago to be foreign but close enough to be familiar. The period is also associated with one person—Queen Victoria, who served as queen from 1837 to 1901, the longest reign in British history. The influence of Victorianism encompasses an even longer period, from the end of the Napoleonic Wars (in 1815) until the beginnings of World War I (in 1914). The cultural, political, and social forces of the age stretched across one hundred years, in part because so many of them had origins in the eighteenth century and even earlier. All the same, though the continuities were important, the 1800s were also years of dynamic change. The Industrial Revolution began in the late eighteenth century and stretched into the twentieth, generating both enormous wealth and a large working class. Both the overall population and specific urban areas grew exponentially. In 1830, more than two-thirds of the population of 15 million people lived on farms; by 1900, the population was 32.5 million and 80 percent lived in cities. The British Empire also expanded, recovering from the setback of the American Revolution. The British ruled colonies across the globe, most notably in Canada, South Asia (India, Burma, and the future Pakistan), the South Pacific (Australia and New Zealand), and Africa. In addition, the nineteenth century saw political reforms that eventually led to a parliamentary democracy, including a substantial increase in the number of voters, redistricting, and the development of two large party organizations, the Tories and the Liberals. These years, then, were some of the most compelling in British history.

Historians often divide the Victorian period into distinct eras, and this book will follow that example. The early Victorian period includes the 1830s and 1840s, an age characterized by economic, political, and social upheaval. In particular, both industry and agriculture experienced depressions in the 1840s . . .

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