The story of a single summer in Victorian Broadstairs, and a group of tourists whose lives will never be the same

Broadstairs, Kent, 1851. Once a sleepy fishing village, now a select sea-bathing resort, this is a place where people come to take the air, and where they come to hide…

Delphine and her cousin Julia have a secret, one they have been running from for years. The clean air and quiet outlook of Broadstairs appeal to them and they think this is a place they can hide from the darkness for just a little longer. Even so, they find themselves increasingly involved in the intrigues and relationships of other visitors to the town.

But this is a place with its own secrets and a dark past. And when the body of a young girl is found washed up on the beach, a mysterious message scrawled on the sand beside her, the past returns to haunt Broadstairs and its inhabitants. As the incomers are drawn into the mystery and each others’ lives, they realise they cannot escape what happened here years before…

The best writers of historical crime fiction are as interested in character as they are in a twisting plot. Sophia Tobin’s second novel, The Widow’s Confession, deftly combines the unravelling of a murder mystery with a sophisticated study of a group of disparate people thrown together in the sea-bathing resort of Broadstairs in 1851…the discovery of a young girl’s body on the beach is the catalyst for events that reopen past wounds and eventually force Tobin’s vividly realised characters to break free from self-imposed restraints
— Nick Rennison, The Sunday Times
On one level, this is a darkly suggestive and intriguing seaside murder mystery with a dash of Wilkie Collins, but its revelations beg deeper questions and this is where the author is at her strongest. At its heart is an interesting and forensic probing of Victorian mores and the astonishing and – to us – unnecessary toll they exacted upon men and women.
— Elizabeth Buchan, Daily Mail

Reading Group Questions

  • The Widow’s Confession is set by the sea in Broadstairs; an isolated spot. What role does weather play in the novel?
  • How does location affect the story, and the behaviour of the characters?
  • There is a theme of outsiders and belonging that runs through the novel. Discuss how you think this makes a difference to the outcome of the story.
  • How does the author portray the experience of women in Victorian England? Were you surprised by the behaviour of any of the female characters?
  • Which character did you find most appealing? And who changes the most?
  • What role does the Church play in the narrative and is it what you expected from the period?
  • Discuss the use of letters and how they are used to reveal and obscure the truth.
  • Is the perpetrator of the crime motivated purely by evil? Or is there another driving factor?
  • Is there a happy ending?
  • How would the story have been different if it had been set in the present day?
  • What are the most important themes of the novel?
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