How to Create the Perfect Wife

  • Author Wendy Moore
  • Narrator Daniel Pirrie
  • Publisher Orion
  • Run Time 10 hours and 50 minutes
  • Format Audio
  • Genre European history.

Listen to a sample

What to expect

This is the story of how Thomas Day, a young man of means, decided he could never marry a woman with brains, spirit or fortune. Instead, he adopted two orphan girls from a Foundling Hospital, and set about educating them to become the meek, docile women he considered marriage material.

Unsurprisingly, Day’s marriage plans did not run smoothly. Having returned one orphan early on, his girl of choice, Sabrina Sidney, would also fall foul of the experiment. From then on, she led a difficult life, inhabiting a curious half-world – an ex-orphan, and not quite a ward; a governess, and not quite a fiancée. But Sabrina also ended up figuring in the life of scientists and luminaries as disparate as Erasmus Darwin and Joseph Priestley, as well as that pioneering generation of women writers who included Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Anna Seward.

In HOW TO CREATE THE PERFECT WIFE, Wendy has found a story that echoes her concerns about women’s historic powerlessness, and captures a moment when ideas of human development and childraising underwent radical change.

Read by Dan Pirrie. Daniel Pirrie trained as an actor at LAMDA and to date has worked in theatre, TV, film, radio and audiobooks. TV roles include playing Major Bryant in the second series of Downton Abbey, Dr. Who: The God Complex, Case Histories and Holby for the BBC. Theatre roles include The Vortex with Felicity Kendal, Dan Stevens and directed by Sir Peter Hall. He also has a role in the 2013 film Diana starring Naomi Watts. Dan has read many audiobooks including The Shadow of the Rock by Thomas Mogford and Torchwood: The Exodus Code by John and Carole Barrowman.

(p) 2013 Orion Publishing Group

Critics Review

  • The kind of story you couldn’t make up: two girls taken from foundling hospitals in the late 18th century to be trained by Thomas Day, Enlightenment man and follower of Rousseau, one for eventual marriage to him. An ‘experiment’ supported by friend lie Erasmus Darwin masks the horror of almost 15,000 children abandoned in one week. Superb history.

    SUNDAY HERALD
  • The creepy tale pf am 18th-century gentleman who attempted to mould two prepubescent girls into his dream women.

    THE OBSERVER
  • [Moore’s] book reads at times like a historical novel. Yet it is underpinned by meticulous research, and raises a host of questions about eighteenth-century attitudes toward women, love, and power, both personal and political

    NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS
  • By the measure of our times Day is a damnable oddball, but Moore paints him in an engaging way and rescues the unfortunate Sabrina from the dustbucket of history.

    SUNDAY BUSINESS POST
  • As in her previous book, Wedlock, which portrayed a disastrous and cruel marriage, Moore has found an excruciatingly gruesome and fascinating story. But instead of turning these portraits into misery biographies, she weaves them into the broader context of the time.”

    The Guardian
  • A sort of double biography of an 18th-century sociopath, Thomas Day, and of the orphans he illegally acquired, to groom one for his future wife. It’s a grim tale told with flashes of humour”

    SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

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