I’ve just finished reading Sharon Biggs Waller’s new YA book, A Mad, Wicked Folly and I thoroughly loved every second of it. I always enjoy seeing Pre-Raphaelite art woven into a fictional setting and in this particular case, it was well-crafted and expertly done.
Victoria Darling is a girl born of privilege, yet she is restricted by societal norms and a class system that forbids women from pursuing higher education and careers of their own. The Pre-Raphaelites have been a great influence on her and she’s developed a personal connection with Waterhouse’s A Mermaid in particular. A talented artist, Victoria longs to follow her dreams and attend the Royal College of Art. Unfortunately, since she has scandalized her parents by posing nude in an art class, her father has forbidden her from entering the art world. Even further, he has betrothed her in marriage. But could marriage possibly provide the escape she needs? As a married woman and out from under her father’s control, Vicky wonders if she would be able to attend the RCA after all.
When Vicky is swept into the suffragette movement, she learns that her plight is a universal one and that there is a larger fight to be fought. Should she choose comfortable security and marry Edmund Carrick-Humphrey? Or should she stay true to her plan of furthering her art education? To complicate matters, she finds herself growing ever closer to Will, a local police constable who has become her artistic muse.
Sharon Biggs Waller’s narrative is delightful. I found myself liking Vicky immensely, and I especially gravitated to Sophie, Vicky’s maid-turned-confidante who has her own secret. I’m hoping that there are future adventures involving them both.