A vibrant novel about misunderstood Romantic-Era genius Dorothy Wordsworth, from Giller-shortlisted author Kathleen Winter. “A stunning, spellbinding, poetic triumph.” —Toronto Star
When young James Dixon, a local jack-of-all-trades recently returned from the Battle of Waterloo, meets Dorothy Wordsworth, he quickly realizes he’s never met another woman like her. In her early thirties, Dorothy has already lived a wildly unconventional life. And as her famous brother William Wordsworth’s confidante and creative collaborator—considered by some in their circle to be the secret to his success as a poet—she has carved a seemingly idyllic existence for herself, alongside William and his wife, in England’s Lake District.
One day, Dixon is approached by William to do some handiwork around the Wordsworth estate. He quickly understands that his real responsibility is to keep an eye on Dorothy. The unlikely pair of misfits soon form a sympathetic bond, despite the chasm in social class between them, and Dixon becomes the quiet witness to everyday life among Dorothy’s glittering social circle, which includes literary legends Samuel Coleridge, Thomas de Quincy, and William Blake.
Through the fictional James Dixon, we step inside the Wordsworth family, witnessing their dramatic emotional and artistic struggles, hidden traumas, private betrayals and triumphs. At the same time, Winter slowly weaves a darker, complex “undersong” through the novel—that of a woman determined, against all odds, to exist on her own terms.