An Idle Woman: gaslighting in the nineteenth century

1838, England: When eighteen-year-old Frances Dickinson impulsively marries Lieutenant John Geils, all her hopes for her future are quickly shattered as she finds there is much about her husband she did not know. A cruel and violent man, John keeps Frances in isolation on his family’s estate, while spending her fortune and preying upon their maids.

Frances yearns to break free from her marriage but the law is not on her side. Only when John’s abuse escalates can she set in motion a daring plan to secure her freedom.

A story of gaslighting, control and one woman’s fight, An Idle Woman is the true story behind one of the most sensational divorce trials of the nineteenth century.

Wendy Parkins is from Sydney and has held academic posts at universities in Australia, New Zealand, and the UK, most recently as Professor of Victorian Literature at the University of Kent. She decided to leave academia at the end of 2018 to return to New Zealand to pursue writing full-time. My memoir, Every Morning, So Far, I’m Alive, was published in 2019. In 2018, Parkins moved back to New Zealand to focus on her writing and is currently teaching English Literature and Creative Writing part-time at the University of Otago, Dunedin, and reviews books for leading New Zealand journals and magazines.