In December 1922 Edith Thompson, a smart, bright, lower-middle class woman who worked in a milliner's shop, was tried for conspiring with her young lover Frederick Bywaters to murder her husband, Percy. The sensational trial, which took place in front of heaving crowds at the Old Bailey, unravelled a real life drama as exciting as any blockbuster: ...
In December 1922 Edith Thompson, a smart, bright, lower-middle class woman who worked in a milliner's shop, was tried for conspiring with her young lover Frederick Bywaters to murder her husband, Percy. The sensational trial, which took place in front of heaving crowds at the Old Bailey, unravelled a real life drama as exciting as any blockbuster: an illicit love affair, a back-street abortion, domestic violence, murder and a double execution. FRED AND EDIE draws together powerful threads between personal memory and public lives, between innocence and responsibility, and between fact and fiction. It is an exploration of a woman caught in the net of her own private fantasy and the conflicts of the era in which she lived, of her muddled attempt to defy convention and reshape her own destiny, and, finally, of the devastation she left in her wake.
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Publishers Weekly, 2001-08-20 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. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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