I devoured this book. And I know I will not hesitate to devour it again, its hold over me is that strong. It is a story with many layers and a narrative that switches between time periods. I enjoyed it, realizing early on that the story was told in an artistic, disjointed way that appealed to me. It is unique and yet, like Pre-Raphaelite art, it is not for everyone.
I think Mortal Love can best be described as a fairy tale for adult readers. It is a modern myth that explores the relationship between the muse and the artist.
This book is indeed a tapestry, weaving together not only different time periods, but also offering cameo appearances of artists, authors, music, and folklore from days gone by. I do have to say that my knowledge of the Pre-Raphaelites and their circle added to my understanding and enjoyment of this book. I do wonder whether a new reader who has never heard of Burne-Jones or Algernon Charles Swinburne would appreciate the book with the same depth, but on the whole the story still stands alone and if anything, I hope that this beautifully told tale would inspire those readers to seek out information about the artists and authors mentioned.
I loved Elizabeth Hand’s easy use of colors and scents. She created a visual atmosphere for the reader, immersing me in a world of crisp hues and the scent of green apples. Have you ever had that experience where even though you are asleep, sounds from the awake world are heard and mesh seamlessly with your dream? Like a telephone ringing or a dog barking? That is the only way I can think of to describe my feelings while reading this book. I was sort of in between worlds, yet part of both. My children surround me, playing. My husband working in the near vicinity. Noises are everywhere. Amidst our normal daily chaos, I was somewhere else. A dream world of chestnut-colored hair, acorns, absinthe, art, and a woman who could truly be described as la belle dame sans merci.
I want to share with you a synopsis of the book, but it just struck me that the task may be beyond me. I’m actually amused that I have never had difficulty describing the plot of a book before, but there is so much going on in Mortal Love that I can not do it justice with my own words. Instead of attempting it, I hope you will forgive me for taking the easy way out and give you the description from the back of the book:
In the Victorian Age, a mysterious and irresistible woman becomes entwined in the lives of several artists, both as a muse and as the object of all-consuming obsession. Radborne Comstock, one of the early twentieth century’s young painters, is helpless under her dangerous spell.
In modern-day London, journalist Daniel Rowlands meets a beguiling woman who holds a secret to invaluable- and lost- Pre-Raphaelite paintings, while wealthy dilettante -actor Valentine Comstock is consumed by enigmatic visions.
Swirling between eras and continents, Mortal Love is the intense tale of unforgettable characters caught in a whirlwind of art, love, and intrigue that will take your breath away.
For those who may be offended, please note that there are some sexually explicit passages.