Cover image for The journal of Mrs. Pepys : portrait of a marriage
The journal of Mrs. Pepys : portrait of a marriage
George, Sara.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Physical Description:
340 pages ; 20 cm
General Note:
"Thomas Dunne books."

"First published in Great Britain by Review/Headline Book Publishing"--T.p. verso.
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The Pepys' marriage was one of love, marred by their failure to have a child and their struggle with poverty. But as their fortunes began to turn, their marriage was threatened by Samuel's notorious infidelities. The Journal of Mrs. Pepys captures a woman's passage through the defining years of her life. This is a portrait of a tumultuous relationship and era that, in its sharp-edged concerns and emotions, is utterly compelling.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Elizabeth Pepys' husband, Samuel, the famous seventeenth-century English diarist, isn't the only one keeping a diary. "I have resolved to keep a journal," she writes, "and it will be private. . . I shall say whatever I like." Thus begins the "she said" side of Pepys' account. Elizabeth, married at 15 and a product of her times, even in her most private thoughts, is madly in love with Samuel, flattered by his jealousy, and infuriated by his personal habits, especially his parsimony. Reluctant to discuss herself, she writes about politics, the rivalries between the ladies of the court, marmalade recipes, and her favorite books. Running throughout all her entries, however, is her worry that Samuel is having affairs and her concern over her mysterious illness, which sounds just like syphilis, and which she pities other people for having but doesn't recognize in herself. As the ravages of the disease increase, so does marital discord and the sadness of Elizabeth's predicament, which ends with her final entry, penned at age 29. George's deft use of period detail enhances her sensitive portrait of Elizabeth Pepys, a woman whose silence became as loud and significant as her husband's rhetoric. See the Read-alikes column on the opposite page for other novels starring real-life women in history.--Melanie Duncan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Historians have gleaned much of what they know about late 17th-century London from the detailed, copious and sexually explicit diaries of Samuel Pepys (1633-1703). What if Pepys's wife had also kept a diary? George (Acid Drop) combines an intimate knowledge of England's capital city (where she lives), serious historical delving and a way with character to create a meticulous first-person novel in the tradition of Robert Graves's Wife to Mr. Milton. Samuel Pepys, who enjoyed the patronage of the Earl of Sandwich, lived at the epicenter of activity in early Restoration London, and he rose through the ranks of the Navy Office to become a leading official. He was also an unfaithful, and sometimes impecunious, husband. Elizabeth grew up in a Dutch convent, married for love and died young. Like her husband, George's Elizabeth depicts the return of the English King Charles II to the throne, the plague of 1665 and the Great Fire that ravaged London in 1666. But George has set out to do justice to the vicissitudes of Elizabeth's private life as well to the great events of the era. The results are touching, but most readers likely will care less about Elizabeth's trials than about her crisp comments on the courtly culture of the time: "Sam was furiously displeased with me for wearing white locks, wouldn't say anything, kept silent and then suddenly came out with it... only whores wore them." The narrative incorporates archaisms without sacrificing fluidity as George succeeds in bringing modern readers into the mindset of an appealing, if ultimately saddening, 17th-century wife. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

We know a great deal about that celebrated 17th-century diarist, Samuel Pepys. But what about his wife? George, who has written several suspense novels, takes on the task of creating the fictional portrait of a woman constrained by circumstances and the conventions of her time who still manages to come across as lively and determined if sometimes a bit blunted by fate. We learn of Elizabeth Pepys through the diary she starts to keep shortly after her marriage to Samuel at age 15. The diary is her constant companion through poverty, Samuel's slow rise to power, and his own less-than-constant behavior with the ladies. George crafts her portrait through the small, homely details of everyday life, describing, for instance, a washday (with stinging lye, soap being too dear) that lasts far after midnight, Sam having returned hours before from the tavern and gone to bed. The result is a thoughtful work, occasionally suffering from a sameness of voice, that follows Elizabeth's trajectory to her death from typhus at age 29. For larger libraries.ÄBarbara Hoffert, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.