Far Above Rubies
Catherine Dickens is the subject of Far Above Rubies. She was married not only to one of the most famous novelists of the Victorian era but to a restless, mercurial and often difficult man. As Anne-Marie Vukelic tells us through Catherine’s journal, Catherine was devoted to and in love with a husband who was the constant centre of all things in their lives. For Catherine this was difficult yet often thrilling.
Catherine’s story does not have a happy ending, but the journey is worth it for the reader, both for the sadness in Catherine’s life as well as the interludes of great happiness. This is a moving portrait of a marriage which ultimately failed and Vukelic tells it well, analysing it with sensitivity, using Catherine’s own viewpoint. Her research is faultless and for those interested in reading more, there are end notes on each chapter. Importantly, Vukelic recreates Catherine’s domestic world convincingly. She shows how Victorian men could legally and emotionally manipulate their wives. Whilst Vukelic portrays Dickens as trying, brilliant and very social, she casts Catherine as patient and tolerant, often anxiously controlling her jealousy of Dickens’ enthusiasms for his female friends, including her sisters. Moreover, although her Catherine is disappointed, Vukelic is not judgmental of either Catherine or Charles.
Time and place are authentically portrayed, bringing to life contemporaries such as William Thackeray, Wilkie Collins and the colourful Count D’Orsay. Equally significant are Dickens’ family and Catherine’s relationship with their sons and daughters. Far Above Rubies is beautifully written. I wanted to read more about Catherine’s sisters and Catherine’s visits to America and Italy. My appetite is whetted. This is a fascinating novel about an intriguing Victorian woman.