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 The Sealed Letter by Emma Donoghue

The Sealed Letter(New York: Harcourt, 2008; Melbourne: Scribe, 2009; London: Picador, 2011). Based on a scandal that gripped Britain in the 1860s, this domestic thriller – my sixth novel - explores a feminist spinster’s reluctant involvement in a sordid divorce. Joint winner of the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction, longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Orange Prize, a Now Magazine Top Ten Book of the Year. Reached No. 7 in paperback fiction sales in the UK and No. 1 in Ireland. The Sealed Letter is out in Dutch and forthcoming in Russian, and as an audiobook from Picador. The Australian edition - uniquely among my work - is a different text from the others, having been cut down to reduce the focus on the Langham Place Circle.

A personal note: 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. This is my first nineteenth-century novel, and what surprised me about the 1860s was its modernity: urban stress, omnipresent advertising, high-speed communications, heated debates about the breakdown of the family… Technically, what was new for me with The Sealed Letter was that – to make the most of the suspenseful court case - I really focused on plot, shaping and reshaping it before I began drafting the scenes.

To buy The Sealed Letter

In the US, paperback:


or ebook: http://www.hmhco.com/shop/books/The-Sealed-Letter/9780547391571

In the UK/Ireland/Australia, paperback: http://www.panmacmillan.com/book/emmadonoghue/thesealedletter?format=978144720598201

or audio: https://www.isis-publishing.co.uk/the-sealed-letter-10270

on audio: https://thereadinghouse.co.uk/products/thesealedletter-by-emmadonoghue?_pos=3&_sid=7edcf9ef4&_ss=r

 In Canada, paperback: http://harpercollins.ca/books/Sealed-Letter-Emma-Donoghue/?isbn=9781554680375

 Wherever you live, PLEASE support your local indie bookstore by buying from them either directly or through an indie-friendly hub such as bookshop.org or hive.co.uk.



‘A page-turning drama packed with sex, passion and intrigue.’ – Daily Mail

‘The author interlaces hard-hitting historical fact and imaginative fiction into the narrative with a deft and breezy touch: the reader can almost hear the characters' voices long after closing the book.’ – Sunday Telegraph

‘A glorious piece of Victoriana: it's elegant and well-constructed, it's finished off with fancy swoops and swirls, but it's also a great work of industry. It's like the London that Donoghue describes in the first few pages, a big clanking machine that sucks you in, and it's powered by some of the most important subjects any novel can tackle: friendship, marriage, loyalty and a most important question - who can you trust?’ – Sunday Herald

‘A real page-turner, like the Victorian potboilers Fido reads in secret. It is also a sensitively-managed story of female friendship gone wrong; an essay on the manners and mores of Victorian London; a history of the early pioneers of the women’s movement; and a thriller about adultery… an involving story, impeccably researched and a pleasure to read.’ – Sunday Business Post

‘Cosily lurid… As with Donoghue’s previous novels Slammerkin and Life Mask, the plot is psychologically informed, fast paced and eminently readable… Donoghue’s sympathy for all three of her central characters emerges through intimate narration and lifts the novel out of the tabloid muck.’ – New York Times Book Review

‘A wicked tale of Sex and the Victorian City… Donoghue weaves an engrossing and often quite funny melodrama about a bad, bad girl who bursts the seams of this corseted world — it's part "Forever Amber" and part clockwork courtroom drama, with bawdy undercurrents of forbidden love thrown in for good measure. All in all, a deliciously wicked little romp, complete with a clever twist at the end.’ – Seattle Times

‘A thoroughly riveting courtroom drama… Juicy, vicious, elegant and thoughtful.’ – Globe and Mail



Rachel M Friars, ‘”You’re not the stuff of a chapter”: Queer Life and Women’s Activism in Biofictions by Emma Donoghue’, paper delivered at The Neo-Victorian and the Late-Victorian (Brighton 2021), https://blogs.brighton.ac.uk/neovictorian/rachel-m-friars/

Natasha Alden, 'From the Effective to the Affective: Postmemory in Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter', in Contemporary Women's Writing (2020), https://academic.oup.com/cww/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/cww/vpaa017/5903488

Marta Lobato Gómez, ‘Female Affinities in Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter’, MA thesis (University of Málaga, 2018).

Marisol Morales-Ladrón, “Unresolved implicative dilemmas: A cognitive-constructivist reading of Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter, Irish Studies Review (January 2018).

Lin Pettersson, "The Philanthropist in Neo-Victorian Literature:
(Im)Proper Femininity, Gender Inversion and Freakishness," Revista
Canaria de Estudios Ingleses  74 (2017), 15-39.

Natasha Alden (Aberystwyth University), 'The Contemporary Lesbian Past', paper delivered at Women Writing Across Cultures Conference (Oxford University, 2014).

Brenda Koller, 'Private Lives, Public Transgressions: Emily Faithfull and the Doctrine of Separate Spheres in Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter,' Writing Missing Links: Rewriting Women's History Through Literature (MA thesis, 2013), pp.68-93

Lin Elinor Pettersson, “‘Not the Kind of Thing Anyone Wants to Spell Out:’ Lesbian Silence in Emma Donoghue’s Neo-Victorian Representation of the Codrington Divorce,” Lambda Nordica2.2 (2013), 13-43

Claire O'Callaghan, ' "Smash the Social Machine": Neo-Victorianism and Postfeminism in Emma Donoghue's The Sealed Letter,' http://www.neovictorianstudies.com/past_issues/6-2%202013/NVS%206-2-3%20C-O%27Callaghan.pdf

Malwina Degorska, ‘…so much to say, and little of it speakable’: Closeted Queer Identities in Colm Toibin’s The Master and Emma Donoghue’s The Sealed Letter,’ paper delivered at Queer Sexualities conference (Warsaw, 2011).

 Interview with Donoghue on BBC Radio 4's Front Row, October 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0169449

 Kevin Power, ‘Letter displays a way with words’, Sunday Business Post, 16 Oct 2011.

 Interview and reading on Australian National Radio (2009), http://www.abc.net.au/rn/bookshow/stories/2009/2669529.html.

 Marilynn Richtarik, ‘A Woman of the World’, Irish Literary Supplement, Fall 2008

 Alice Lawlor, ‘Emma Donoghue’s historical novels’, Xtra (Toronto), 29 July 2008

 Susann Cokal, ‘Suffering Suffragist’, New York Times Book Review, 5 October 2008

 Cynthia MacDonald, ‘Dalliance and Divorce in Victoria’s England’, Globe and Mail, 19 April 2008