Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Girl in a Blue Dress

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Girl in a Blue Dress

A Novel Inspired by the Life and Marriage of Charles Dickens

by Gaynor Arnold

Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold X
Girl in a Blue Dress by Gaynor Arnold
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jul 2009, 432 pages
    Paperback:
    Aug 2010, 432 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez
Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book

This article relates to Girl in a Blue Dress

Print Review

Birth Control and Childbirth in the 19th Century
Speaking of fathers, Dorothea Gibson’s daughter-in-law says, "They do not become dissolved into parenthood the way we [women] do." Truer words may never have been spoken – at least as far as the 19th Century was concerned.

Dissolved? Dorothea (Dodo) Gibson floundered under the toll of eight closely spaced children plus several miscarriages combined with the debilitating effects of near-continuous pregnancies. It seems safe to say the sum very nearly took her life. It certainly took her health and sanity even while her husband - tired of all the runny noses and hubbub - suggested indifferently that she "do something" about the situation. Certainly he was not alone in his time and gender to deem contraception as the sole responsibility of the woman. However, Dodo felt, as a genteel woman of certain class, that she had nowhere to turn for birth control advice.

Indeed, had she even found a confidante, she would have learnt there was scant little advice to be had. According to The History of Birth Control by Kathleen London of the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, crudely performed and risky abortions and even, tragically, infanticide were both fairly widespread forms of birth control well into the 19th century. Alternative methods were either largely unreliable or life-threatening to the woman. Concoctions and devices utilizing such things as straw, honey, wool, sea sponge, vinegar, dung (yes, dung) and sodium carbonate were among the options available back in the day. The ubiquitous practices of coitus interruptus, the rhythm method and douching were also common. Sometime in the middle of the 19th century the condom was invented – perhaps too late for our dear Dodo. Although, British playwright and essayist George Bernard Shaw called the rubber condom the "greatest invention of the 19th century."

If pregnancy was an inevitable, debilitating consequence of coitus for the 19th Century woman, then childbirth was a foretaste of hell on earth. Left in the hands of people who believed that delivery pain was a necessary and important part of life, women were expected to endure it without complaint. Surprisingly, it was Queen Victoria who championed pain-free childbirth. By the time she was getting ready to deliver her eighth child she was ready for chloroform. With the now-famous Dr. John Snow in attendance she delivered infant Leopold while drifting in a sea of dreamy bliss. Her Majesty liked it so much that her next and final child, Beatrice, was delivered the same way. She may have made life a bit easier for herself but I’ll wager the good Queen did not then dissolve into parenthood.

Ah, to be queen.

Article by Donna Chavez

This "beyond the book article" relates to Girl in a Blue Dress. It originally ran in September 2009 and has been updated for the August 2010 paperback edition.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: An American Summer
    An American Summer
    by Alex Kotlowitz
    As a Chicagoan, I've become used to the most common reactions when I'm traveling and tell someone ...
  • Book Jacket: The Sun Is a Compass
    The Sun Is a Compass
    by Caroline Van Hemert
    Caroline Van Hemert fell in love with her future husband, Pat, in 2001, discovering they shared a ...
  • Book Jacket: Women Talking
    Women Talking
    by Miriam Toews
    Miriam Toews' Women Talking is a circadian novel, unfolding over a span of just a few hours and ...
  • Book Jacket: Confessions of an Innocent Man
    Confessions of an Innocent Man
    by David R. Dow
    It is circumstance that carries the wave that sweeps trendy Houston restaurateur Rafael Zhettah to ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    When We Left Cuba
    by Chanel Cleeton

    An exhilarating historical novel from the author of Next Year in Havana, a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    D-Day Girls
    by Sarah Rose

    The dramatic story of the extraordinary women recruited by Britain's elite spy agency to help pave the way for Allied victory.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club
Book Jacket
An American Marriage
by Tayari Jones

A masterpiece of storytelling, and a 2018 Oprah's Book Club Selection.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Book Club Giveaway!
Win Women Rowing North

The instant New York Times bestseller

A guide to wisdom, authenticity, and bliss for women as they age.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

A B Penny A T U

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.