Mr. and Mrs. Disraeli: A Strange Romance

Daisy Hay. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-27063-6
Benjamin Disraeli, a struggling novelist, and Mary Anne Lewis, a free-spirited, wealthy widow 15 years his senior, had a deep bond marked by overt romantic displays and shared ambition, even as Disraeli became British prime minister. Through strong scholarship and deft storytelling, Hays (Young Romantics) depicts the occasionally brutal evolution of their marriage and its power shifts: Disraeli was initially reliant on Lewis’s finances, but he slowly asserted his independence during his political ascension—and, in a show of gratitude, eventually gave her the peerage. Their letters to each other and sibling-confidantes reveal not only embarrassing personal struggles for the time—Lewis’s sins included dressing garishly and describing Disraeli in bed at social occasions—but also that Lewis saved them in the face of his ruinous debts. The letters give fascinating insight into imperial England’s upper-class mores and political considerations. Hays’s vivid account offers an empathetic, modern understanding of a passionate, seemingly mismatched couple who inspired each other’s great achievements in the restrained Victorian era—a relationship that remains every bit as absorbing as those in Disraeli’s own romantic novels. Illus. Agent: Clare Alexander, Aitken Alexander Assoc. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/2014
Release date: 02/10/2015
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-374-53600-8
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-0-374-71292-1
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