The celebrated debut novel inspired by the life and marriage of Charles Dickens Alfred Gibson's funeral is taking place at Westminster Abbey, and his wife of twenty years, Dorothea, has not been invited. The Great Man's will favours his children and a clandestine mistress over the woman he sent away when their youngest child was still an infant. Dorothea hasn't left her small apartment for years, and accepts her exclusion -- until an invitation to a private audience with Queen Victoria arrives. The exhilaration of finding that she has much in common with the most powerful woman in England spurs Dorothea to examine her own life more closely. Her recollections uncover deviousness and the frighteningly hypnotic power of the genius she married, but also raise questions about her own complicity in her unhappiness. Questions that finally compel her to face her grown-up children and the two women she has long felt stole her husband: her own younger sister, Sissy, and the charming actress, Miss Ricketts. This remarkable debut is as wise in the ways of the human heart as it is witty and vivid in its depiction of the charismatic Alfred Gibson, and the habits, mores, and personalities of Victorian London.