By now SPOILER everyone has heard the set-up, that in Albert Nobbs Glen Close's character is a woman in 19th century Dublin who dresses as a man, in order to be able to make a decent living. I understand that this was not, actually, so very uncommon, since the life available to a women then was very circumscribed and, frankly, bleak.
I'm currently reading a great biography, Charles Dickens, by Clair Tomalin. He appears to have been a complicated genius - a driven, past-haunted man with real feeling for the underdogs of society, a passionate nature but no impulse control, both a great and a terrible friend, lover, father... In the shadow of this great man, the colorless and dependent life of his wife is pathetic. He treated his wife - mother of eight! - shamefully.
Mrs. Charles (Catherine) Dickens nee' Hogarth - believed public domain
In Albert Nobbs the housemaid who dares live on the wild side - in a way no one would remark on now - is threatened with a dreadful future. From all I've read, such vengeful treatment of unwed mothers continued in Ireland right up through the 1950s.
If ever there were women that available family planning would have freed - Mrs. Dickens and the Irish housemaid are them.
In the 21st century we women forget how cruel our foremothers' lives could be. How hard they still are in many parts of the world. In Afghanistan today the Irish girl might not just face losing her child and spending life in a prison-like "reform" home... in it might be stoning to death.
Interesting movie. Interesting book. Boy I'm glad I don't live in some other times or places!
HERE's a good review of Tomalin's biography of Dickens. Previous POST on Dickens.