The girl in question is Dorothea and the blue dress is one she dons (having first lowered the neckline!) in order to impress a young playwright, to whom her father is benefactor. The dress works its magic and the couple begin a secret correspondence. Dorothea, known as ‘Dodo’, and her lover are desperate to marry, but her family disapprove of the flamboyant writer. Nevertheless, they agree to a long engagement on condition that the young man proves he is capable of supporting their daughter.
The couple are married and Dodo quickly bears the first of their ten children. Her husband rises to the heights of fame, feted by London society and far beyond. But he is a passionate man, drawn to women and notions of romantic love. He forms an attachment to a young actress cast opposite him in a play. Having sent his wife away to Leamington Spa in order to recover her health, upon Dodo’s return, he expels her from their marital home and makes a public statement about their separation. Humiliated and wronged, separated from her husband and children, Dorothea withdraws from society for a long ten years. She is only drawn from her seclusion upon the death of her husband, and is reconciled with her estranged children.
The premise of the book is that it is based upon the life of Charles Dickens and his wife, Catherine. The author admits she has taken liberties with the truth, so I have no idea how much of the narrative is true, but it didn’t really matter! The plot is progressed largely through dialogue, as Dodo switches the scene between the present and her past. There is a great deal of warmth in the novel and all the characters really came alive for me. I wholeheartedly recommend it. After this rave review, I expect you will have Great Expectations!