• The Invisible Woman

  • The Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens
  • By: Claire Tomalin
  • Narrated by: Wanda McCaddon
  • Length: 10 hrs and 12 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 10-30-12
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Tantor Audio
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.0 (70 ratings)

Regular price: $27.99

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Publisher's Summary

Charles Dickens and Nelly Ternan met in 1857; she was 18, a hard-working actress performing in his production of The Frozen Deep, and he was 45, the most lionized writer in England. Out of their meeting came a love affair that lasted 13 years and destroyed Dickens's marriage while effacing Nelly Ternan from the public record.
In this remarkable work of biography and scholarly reconstruction, the acclaimed biographer of Mary Wollstonecraft, Thomas Hardy, Samuel Pepys, and Jane Austen rescues Nelly from the shadows of history, not only returning the neglected actress to her rightful place, but also providing a compelling portrait of the great Victorian novelist himself. The result is a thrilling literary detective story and a deeply compassionate work that encompasses all those women who were exiled from the warm, well-lighted parlors of Victorian England.
©1990, 1991 Claire Tomalin (P)2012 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"Captivating.... An absorbing book about...a character who helps to illuminate the life of a great artist and the life of her times." (Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Jean on 01-21-13


This is a story of Charles Dickens and his mistress Nelly Ternan. He was 45 and she 18 when they met in 1857. I almost got more interested in Claire Tomalin detective search for information about Nelly Ternan. Apparently both Ternan and Dickens destroyed most of the written material about themselves and lived in a discreet way. The divorce of the Dickens was shocking to Victorian England, so they kept a low profile. I found it interesting to note that a life in the theater (acting) was an unfavorable occupation and more so for women at the time, they were social outcasts and were thought of as whores. Things sure changed in the 20th and 21 century we put actors at the top of our society. Claire Tomalin did a great job trying to provide an accurate biography of the two but I am sure she had to do some speculation and deduction also. Wanda McCaddon did a good job of narrating the story. Tomalin's discussion of Dickens and his contemporaries was interesting as I had recently added to my wish list a book by Anthony Trollope, apparently he and Dickens were friends. Tomalin did a good job of bringing to life the era of the 1850s. If you enjoy literature and history you will enjoy this book.

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13 of 14 people found this review helpful

3 out of 5 stars
By Kristi R on 04-27-14

The tale of a "purchased" woman.

I liked this book, but because so much of the papers of Dickens and Ms. Ternan were destroyed by family members, it's conclusions are supposition and circumstantial. That said, I personally believe they did have a relationship and probably a one sided one. I think because of Mr. Dickens' literary genius he was able to "purchase" this woman as a companion and mistress. What woman of little means with a family to support could turn down such an offer?

I admit it's just my gut instinct, but I think it is valid.

The saddest part of this story is when Nellie's son discovers the facts of the relationship and he destroys all the papers and refuses to talk about his mother with anyone. Anytime someone puts someone on a pedestal and they come crashing down, this type of thing happens.

I haven't seen the movie version of this book yet but I expect to in the near future.

It is well researched with the amount of materials available today and I can recommend it on that basis.

The narrator does an adequate job.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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