“A whip-sharp memoir.” — New York Times Book Review
“Stevens is a very artful writer—the structure she chooses is inspired—and the book builds to a surprising, and surprisingly moving, ending.” — The New Yorker
“All cake is to be both had and eaten in this celebratory, charming, thoroughly fictional book.” — The Guardian
Published in the UK as MRS GASKELL & ME and in North America as THE VICTORIAN & THE ROMANTIC, this is a book is about unrequited love, the romance of friendship, and forming a way of life outside the conventions of your time. Hugely compelling, moving and wildly funny, it asks important questions about what it means to be a woman in the world we live in.
In 1857, Elizabeth Gaskell left the anxieties of her home life and literary career in England and set sail for Rome. There, 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 country. 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. Ultimately it also offers Nell an opportunity: even as her own relationship falls apart, perhaps, in her writing, she can give Mrs Gaskell the ending she deserved.