Book: Fred & Edie

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Fred & Edie

Author: Jill Dawson
Publisher: Welcome Rain Publishers

In a dazzling act of literary license, the novelist and poet Jill Dawson has transformed the sensational true story of Britain”s infamous condemned adulteress into a dramatic novel of passion, murder, and scandal, as seductive as it is shocking. One night in London in 1922, a clerk named Percy Thompson is stabbed to death as he walks home from the theater. The spectacular case that follows captures the imagination of an entire nation, as Percy”s wife, Edith, and her young lover, Frederick Bywaters, are imprisoned, summarily tried, and hanged for murder, even as a petition to spare their lives receives more than one million signatures. Stylish, tantalizing, “with descriptions of the sex act from a woman”s viewpoint [that] are both lyrical and sublime” (Daily Mail), Fred & Edie is a hauntingly authentic portrait of a woman whose passio ultimately leads to her destruction. Reminiscent of both Lady Chatterley and Emma Bovary, Jill Dawson”s Edie falls into the category of the unforgettable.


In the winter of 1922 Edith Waters and her younger lover, Freddy Bywaters, were found guilty of murdering Percy Waters, Edith’s boorish husband. The two lovers were executed in a whirl of publicity in 1923. The case caused a sensation, a crime of passion that gripped the nation’s imagination and became the raw material for Jill Dawson’s sensual and captivating novel Fred and Edie, a fictional account of the lovers’ romance and their subsequent trial, predominantly told through Edie’s imaginary letters addressed to her lover, “Darlint Freddie”. This is a remarkable novel, that brilliantly evokes the suburban world of 1920s London (T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, published the same year as the trial, runs like a leitmotif throughout the novel). Edie, viewed from the public gallery as “silly, vain” is a superb literary creation—sensual, intelligent, articulate and liberated, bitterly denouncing in her letters to Freddy a world that denies “that our love might be a real love, on a par with other great loves. That just because you are from Norwood and work as a ship’s laundry man and I grew up in Stamford Hill and read a certain kind of novel, we are not capable of true emotions, of having feelings and experiences that matter“.

Dawson’s novel gradually reveals that Edie’s “crime” is actually her articulate, contradictory and assertive femininity. “I am not all sweetness and light” she insists, but it is her independent behaviour that ultimately stands trial, as Freddy becomes an increasingly enigmatic and questionable figure on the margins of the novel. Elegantly written and carefully researched, Fred and Edie is as passionate and assured as the tragic heroine it portrays. —Jerry Brotton

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