Sealed Letter - Emma Donoghue Synopsis
After a separation of many years, Emily 'Fido' Faithfull bumps into her old friend Helen Codrington on the streets of Victorian London. Much has changed: Helen is more and more unhappy in her marriage to the older Vice-Admiral Codrington, while Fido has become a successful woman of business and a pioneer in the British Women's Movement. But, for all her independence of mind, Fido is too trusting of her once-dear companion and finds herself drawn into aiding Helen's obsessive affair with a young army officer. Then, when the Vice-Admiral seizes the children and sues for divorce, the women's friendship unravels amid accusations of adultery and counter-accusations of cruelty and attempted rape, as well as a mysterious 'sealed letter' that could destroy more than one life ...

The Sealed Letter is based on a true story, a 1864 divorce trial that scandalised Victorian England with it's titillating details of sordid trysts, stained clothing, accusations of adultery, counterclaims of rape, and a mysterious letter that could destroy more than one life. The trial, and tribulations, of the wronged vice-admiral Henry Codrington and his sexually rapacious wife is the stuff that even today tabloid editors dream of.

Emily “Fido” Faithful hasn’t seen or heard from her best friend Helen Codrington in years and then they bump into each other on a London street. Helen is accompanied by an attractive young man. Before she knows it, Fido is swept along as a reluctant accomplish in Helen’s obsessive extramarital affair.

Poor decent Fido is horrified by her friend's adultery but fascinated at the same time. When she hears Helen and her lover going at it on her sofa — the tortured springs emitting a “frantic squeak” — she’s both fascinated and repulsed.

I found it hard to get into at first and for one reason alone...I hated, hated with a passion, Emily’s nickname, it really put me off. Luckily I got over this... I loved it, the pace,the writing and you experience this delicious sensation of being sympathetic to the characters and the situation they find themselves in and at the same time cringing at everything they do and say.

The author says 'I see The Sealed Letter as completing a sort of trilogy of investigations of the British class system, from the desperation of poverty in Slammerkin, though the complexities of the genteel in Life Mask, to the bourgeois embarrassments of The Sealed Letter.'

A word of warning... “every friend one makes in life is a liability: . . . one must keep her as a friend forever or she’ll become an enemy.”