Kate Forsyth's new book Beauty in Thorns is stuffed with facts about the Pre-Raphaelite painters and their models, and she has created a really vivid world that pulls the reader in with fascinating details about their work, and the extraordinarily complicated way they lived. Most interestingly the author spends time imagining the lives of the wives of these artists - the doomed Lizzie Siddal, beautiful Jane Burden and the really long suffering Georgiana McDonald who married Edward Burne-Jones when he was just Ted Jones. A very enjoyable and highly informative book that brings a whole arts movement to life.
Louise, Gleebooks Gleaner
For fans of historical fiction and the Victorian era, this is a soul-satisfying read, keeping you up late at night, desperate to know the fate of Rossetti's tortured lovers, Lizzie Siddall and 'Janey' Morris. The beauty of this story is it's changing perspectives between the women of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, giving themvoices they never had in life, as objects only of the male gaze. Beauty in Thorns is an engrossing read, from start to finish. Forsyth does not rush her heroine's stories and she beautifully charts their lives, loves and tragedies, against a backdrop of Victorian social proprieties and the impossible situation of women in a man's world. The meticulous research that has gone into the drawing of these women, enshrined in the art of their day, adds an authenticity that will sweep the reader along and quite possibly spark an obsession for all things Pre-Raphaelite.
Forsyth has woven a powerful and dramatic account of love, passion, betrayal and fixation. Forsyth takes us along a twisting, tortured path - of wives who became famous models, of cuckolds in need of comfort and of those who understood it all.
Kate’s writing style smooth as silk. But only after I had emerged from the reading experience did I fully appreciate the artistry of this novel’s structure. The depth of characterisation and story layering achieved makes for enthralling reading. Forsyth delivers such nuance in the way each of the women approach their relationships and life’s challenges. She does not shy away from sadness and loss. If anything it is her exploration of these themes in Beauty in Thorns that make her narrative so compelling, and in context only serves to elevate that which was achieved by this pioneering group of individuals. And the interactions and linkages between this novel’s leading characters and other great influencers from that time period, incl. George Eliot and Rudyard Kipling, are amongst the many treasures to delight readers along the journey. And lastly, the imagery within Beauty in Thorns and literary and poetic symbolism… rampant and exquisite.
Joanne P, Booklover Book Reviews
‘All my dear Ned ever wanted to do was awaken the world with beauty . . . That is what I must tell.’ Georgie Burne-Jones. This is how the story ends and now I am feeling a little sad and lost, I have turned the book over and am no longer immersed within the pages of this rich and beautiful world of the Pre-Raphaelites, yet I have the haunting feeling that I won’t be able to quite shake the ghosts of the people who populated this story off, at least for a while. Forsyth has captured the world of the Pre-Raphaelites with deft, exploring their world of beauty, drawing from their riches: their world of painting, drawing, tapestries, embroidery, prints and poetry. The rich and beautiful legacy they left the world to enjoy. Forsyth has brought to life their day to day life, the intricacy of their relationships with one another and the outside world. Their unconventional bohemian lifestyles and their ability to shock and delight their Victorian patrons and society at large. She has captured the highs and lows, the emotional investment of the artists and those who were part of their lives – their family, wives, lovers, models and muses, patrons and critics. And the importance of beauty, beauty in nature, beauty in people, beauty in recreating the written word into a visual dialogue. Beauty in Thorns is truly a delightful story, bringing to life the rich and colourful world of the Pre-Raphaelite artists with such clarity and charm, you feel you are part of their world. Her descriptions are beautifully drawn and her characterisation is true to what we know of them and Victorian England. This will be such a joy for booksellers to hand sell, and for those who loved A S Byatts’ Peacock and Vine, that we published last year, a chance to immerse themselves once again in the beauty and art of the Pre-Raphaelite world.
Forsyth's heroines are just as lively and passionate as their male counterparts, adding an element of intrigue that is not always found in historical fiction. The blending of such strong characters, combined with Forsyth's captivating interweaving plot lines, is admirable. I'll definitely be reading more of her work. Whether you're a fan of historical fiction. or just looking for something different, give Beauty in Thorns a go.
Jackie Smith, Good Reading magazine
O’er the Hills and Far Away
‘Imagine falling asleep for a hundred years. Would it not be awful?’ Georgie Macdonald whispered to her sister.
Carrie gave her a quick, crooked smile, but the shabby young man who sat at Georgie’s feet laughed. ‘Why? I think it’d be marvellous.’
‘Sssh!’ Georgie’s eldest sister, Alice, pressed her finger to her lips.
Will Fulford, holding high a small leather-bound book, declaimed: ‘All round a hedge upshoots, and shows at distance like a little wood; thorns, ivies, woodbine . . .’Continue Reading