Mrs Gaskell and Me

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What to expect

Winner of the 2019 Somerset Maugham Award

‘A great galloping joy of a book – funny, lyrical, fast paced, heart-warming – a delicious celebration of love and life’ Rebecca Stott, author of In the Days of Rain

In 1857, after two years of writing The Life of Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell fled England for Rome on the eve of publication. The project had become so fraught with criticism, with different truths and different lies, that Mrs Gaskell couldn’t stand it any more. She threw her book out into the world and disappeared to Italy with her two eldest daughters. In Rome she found excitement, inspiration, and love: a group of artists and writers who would become lifelong friends, and a man – Charles Norton – who would become the love of Mrs Gaskell’s life, though they would never be together.

In 2013, Nell Stevens is embarking on her Ph.D. – about the community of artists and writers living in Rome in the mid-nineteenth century – and falling drastically in love with a man who lives in another city. As Nell chases her heart around the world, and as Mrs Gaskell forms the greatest connection of her life, these two women, though centuries apart, are drawn together.

Mrs Gaskell and Me is about unrequited love and the romance of friendship, it is about forming a way of life outside the conventions of your time, and it offers Nell the opportunity – even as her own relationship falls apart – to give Mrs Gaskell the ending she deserved.

Critics Review

  • A great galloping joy of a book – funny, lyrical, fast paced, heart-warming – a delicious celebration of love and life

    Rebecca Stott, author of In the Days of Rain
  • A truly lovely book – acutely observed and honest and melancholy

    Jessie Greengrass, author of Sight
  • A tender, clever, sublimely crafted book that celebrates the struggles and triumphs of writing, love, and the desire for connection

    Kiran Millwood Hargrave, author of The Girl of Ink and Stars
  • Stevens has an analytical eye and a wonderful taste for absurdity . . . All cake is to be both had and eaten in this celebratory, charming, thoroughly fictional book.

    The Guardian
  • A charming, distinctive memoir that is ultimately an exploration of the power and the pitfalls of storytelling

    Mail on Sunday
  • Extraordinary, delightful and very moving . . . Stevens’s affection for and relationship to these people is real, and very much alive . . . funny, heartfelt

    Irish Times

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