Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray by Suzanne Fagence Cooper



The Scottish beauty Effie Gray is the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at 19 to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in an unconsummated union. She would fall in love with her husband's protege, John Everett Millais, and inspire some of his most memorable art, but controversy and tragedy continued to stalk her. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effie's family letters and diaries to show the rise and fall of the Pre-Raphaelite circle from a new perspective, through the eyes of a woman whose charm and ambition helped to shape the careers of both her husbands. Effie Gray is a compelling portrait of the extraordinary woman behind some of the greatest paintings of the Victorian era.

In the biography, The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, author Suzanne Fagence Cooper takes us into Victorian England, Venice, Italy, Scotland, and into the heart of the scandal that haunted poor Effie her entire life.

Based upon a treasure of preserved letters, Cooper has recreated Effie’s life in great detail. The book is a comprehensive commentary on the life of this fascinating young woman who had been so shamed and berated because of her first husband’s neglect. I liked the fact that three possible reasons came to light regarding Ruskin’s strange behavior towards his beautiful wife. And I found the plight of Effie’s sister, Sophy, regarding her mental madness and anorexia very interesting.

Numerous photographs are included in the book. My only disappointment was in the physical paperback version I was provided, the typesetting and fonts were so incredibly tiny, it made reading extremely fatiguing and trying. This knocked me out of the story. As I received an advance reading copy, I hope that the publisher has rectified this problem. Or I recommend purchasing the book in e-book format avoid eye strain.

This was a terrific story and definitely worth reading. It is so good it has been made into a movie, which only adds to my belief that this is definitely a book worth reading. An incredibly fascinating tale about a very courageous woman!