Emily “Fido” Faithfull is a pioneer of the British women's movement, swept up in the divorce of her old friend Helen Codrington. Emily Faithfull, affectionately known as Fido, encounters her old friend Helen Codrington who she has not seen for seven years, while walking down London's Farringdon Street.
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Fido is the owner of a women's printing press, one of the leading pioneers of publications for the women's movement, hiring only female typesetters. She suffers from severe asthma attacks, cured by the occasional cigarette, and lives alone.
Helen on the other hand, is practically a symbol of what the women's movement is working against, the typical figure of marriage and motherhood. She has been living in Malta with her naval husband, Admiral Harry Codrington. They have returned to London, and are soon followed by Colonel Anderson, one of Helen's “gentleman friends.”
With their friendship reunited, Fido is drawn into the complications of Helen's failing marriage. She disapproves of the affair, and encourages Helen to end things with Colonel Anderson. Duped by Helen, she overhears them committing said adultery in her own home.
Admiral Codrington has had his own suspicions of his wife, and instigates his own private investigation. Due to the divorce laws of the time, the couple are unable to speak on their own behalf, and the proceedings rely on witnesses and circumstantial evidence.
Helen frames her defence around a scandalous incident, in which she proposes her husband committed adultery first. She claims that he once entered the bed which Helen and Fido shared, and attempted to rape his wife's friend. Helen almost convinces Fido of the truth of the incident, as she has little memory after taking the sedative drug laudanum for her asthma.
Fido is convinced to sign an affidavit, consenting that the incident happened. She realises that she is to be publicly humiliated and that Helen has made a fool of her, and changes her plans for the courtroom.
Admiral Codrington is relying on the evidence of missed telegrams and hotel visits, which he claims were due to her time spent with other men. His defence also includes a sealed letter, which he claims will provide overruling evidence if it is revealed.
Due to her involvement, her colleagues in the women's movement sham Fido, and her reputation is shredded. She fears what may be revealed in the Admiral's letter and retracts her statement of his rape.
After the court proceedings have ended, Fido receives the letter from Mr Codrington which was brandished in court, and is deciding whether to open it or burn it when Helen arrives. Helen demands money from Fido so that she may leave the country, and attempts to make her feel guilty for the feels that have happened. Fido hands over the money, and opens the black seal of the letter. The page is blank.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this the story was based on real Victorian divorce proceedings
Best scene in story:
When Fido and Helen are first reunited, and you learn about Fido's position at the printing press and her prominence within the women's movement, this is insightful and interesting.
Opinion about the main character:
Fido seems too unsure of herself, she has reached success in her career but is easily derailed by her wish to please an old friend.