The first American publication from Close examines the long shadow Scottish sexual politics cast in 1914 and long afterward.
It was love at first sight when Dr. Hugh Ferguson Watson met Donella Atkins. Unfortunately, his love was for Arabella Scott, a suffragette schoolteacher he hadn’t seen for two years. As Donella gradually came to realize, it was not just that her suitor was still in love with the woman he originally mistook her for; that love itself was poisoned at its root. Arrested for attempting to set a fire at the Kelso racecourse, Arabella had already been in and out of prison twice when Hugh arrived at Perth Gaol determined to bring the female prisoners of conscience to heel, even (or especially) if they’d gone on hunger strike. Over a period of months, Arabella and Hugh taunted each other, bullied each other, and tried their utmost to wring concessions from each other. By the time Arabella was released, her staunch principles still intact, Hugh was hopelessly in love with her. It’s a love he tries his best to transfer, two years later, to the eminently marriageable Donella, but a family secret he learns on their wedding night prevents him from consummating their marriage, and the pair settle into an extended period of stony estrangement that will be punctuated by later events—their separation, Donella’s training as a physician, the coming of the second world war, the moon landing—but never entirely resolved.
Inventing a fictional narrative for her real-life principals, Close writes with breathless wit, dizzying passion, a quick sympathy for her two heroines, and an unflinching eye for the mechanics of the medical procedures inflicted on prisoners of conscience.