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Mortal Love

3.60  ·  Rating Details  ·  647 Ratings  ·  88 Reviews
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 most brilliant young painters, is helpless under her dangerous spell.

In modern-day London, journalist Daniel Rowlands meets a beguiling woman who hold
Paperback, 364 pages
Published June 28th 2005 by William Morrow Paperbacks (first published June 29th 2004)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,921)
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Zachary Jernigan
Jun 23, 2015 Zachary Jernigan rated it it was amazing
The experience of reading Mortal Love is somewhat akin to continually waking from an afternoon dream. There is the same mental dislocation—and the same accompanying period of scrambling to separate reality from fantasy. The speculative element of Mortal Love is very strong, never hidden, yet it is some time before the reader orients himself completely to Hand’s technique. As a writer who is constantly being advised to explain more (as in, “How does this laser-thingy work?”), the ways an author ...more
Althea Ann
I keep having this feeling that the *next* book I read by Elizabeth Hand will be one of my favorite books of all time. But she keeps not-quite-getting-there, for me.
I did really like this book, however - it may be her best yet. (And, can't beat the cover art! [a Rossetti painting]).
The plot is complex and twisting, encompassing times frames from the Victorian to today, all dealing with the intersection of Faerie and our world, all featuring a woman of Faerie, powerful, beautiful and compelling,
Aug 06, 2007 Audrey rated it liked it
I think, based on reviews I read before actually reading this novel, that I came to expect way too much from it. I love how Hand wove the different threads of the story together, but the foray into Fairy at the end seemed too abruptly handled -- it lacked the finesse and grace that seemed present throughout so much of the novel. However, I do see myself coming back to this one for a reread, so it's possible I may change my mind the second time around. Not as good as Possession, but then again, f ...more
Yan Hernandez
Aug 01, 2011 Yan Hernandez rated it it was ok
As a Fine Arts major, I was easily captivated with its cover of a woman in a Renaissance inspired oil paint effect. Set on a magnificently romantic Victorian era, is an interesting love affair of a young and struggling painter and his muse.

It won my interest in and I enjoyed the way Elizabeth Hand narrated and depicted the paints, the art materials and the process of painting in an incredibly "matter of fact "tone. Through this, it was almost effortless to imagine how each scene should seem to b
Feb 03, 2009 Alisa rated it it was ok
Disappointing. A lot of people who usually know what's what seem to really like this. I was interested in the bits that took place in the present, but the historical bits (London, the asylum in Cornwall) were confusing and boring - not a good combination.

My biggest complaint was the familiarity. Do I read too many fantasy books? Is that why I wasn't the least bit surprised that the magnetically beautiful girl who destroys her lovers with longing is really an ancient fairy queen? Yawn. Maybe I wa
I'm giving this four stars instead of three because I believe that all the hype I heard about the book led me to except too much from the book. Hand does have a wonderful writing style, and the book does weave three separate stories together very well. The ending, however, seemed a little sudden though I like how everything was entirely and fully explained (if you know your myths and legends, you'll figure it out). Hand did a good job of making Larkin as mysterious for the reader as she was for ...more
Apr 21, 2015 Kimberly rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful novel. Gorgeous incandescent writing spiralling through three storylines spanning two decades and two generations. Two connecting storylines involve mad painters haunted by elusive fey women but are they the same woman? Within this four part novel, you enter into the world of Victorian England just as American born painter Radborne Comstock meets Evienne Upstone a woman who has modeled most recently for some of the painters in the much talked about Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. He ...more
Jul 08, 2007 Grace rated it really liked it
This is a highly atmospheric book involving 3 generations of men, all artistically inclined. The theme of the book is a female succubi-like character who acts as muse to all of them. Though not all of the mysteries of the book are ever completely wrapped up, and the author expects you to know things about Pre-Raphaelite art and Celtic Mythology, it's so easy to get swept up into the writing...very immersive.
Ashley Long
May 10, 2008 Ashley Long rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes art, tales of the past, history.
Recommended to Ashley by: A coworker.
Though I found this book confusing at first, and actually through out most of it, I will say it was very well written and very detailed. I also loved the way it painted pictures in my mind, the words could be likened to colors on a canvas. Overall, I liked it and I plan to reread it at some point.
Sarah Parke
Jan 25, 2016 Sarah Parke rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hannah Givens
A meditation on the Muses, genius, and insanity. Mostly painters (Pre-Raphaelite), some poets, and I liked that it used real historical figures instead of writing around them. Multiple timelines and some fantasy elements -- scary fey and immortal grudges. I had to make a list of the main characters and keep notes on how they related to each other, and I had to look up a lot of words, both good things in this instance. Wonderful writing. It did get a little bogged down in the middle, and there wa ...more
Suzanne Shepherd
Mar 19, 2014 Suzanne Shepherd rated it it was amazing
By the time I had read ten pages of this book I was recommending it to other people... The combination of artistic/poetic subject matter and an incredibly good and effective combination of modern and "literary" style along with a connection with deep mystery combines in a fever-dream of flickering reality. I could not put it down. I felt I knew who this dangerous muse was and yet I was not sure until the end WHY she was. The evocation of La Belle Dame Sans Merci and the Pre-Raphaelites was compl ...more
Marne Wilson
As I got closer and closer to the end of this novel, I started to worry. You see, Hand had done such an amazing job up to that point. First she created several disparate characters, all of whom seemed well-rounded and worthy of my attention, and then she slowly brought their stories together. On top of that, her use of descriptive language was top-notch. (I've never been to England in the spring, but I sure want to go there now!) I wanted to keep living in this world that Hand had created, and I ...more
Jul 05, 2014 Sara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: written-by-women
Man, I'm having the weirdest time trying to rate this. On the one hand, it's entrancing: I didn't want to stop reading, I was deeply involved, I thought about it a lot when I wasn't actively reading it. On the other hand, it's incredibly uneven and feels in some ways overly pleased with its own plots. So yeah, three stars, but it's both better and worse than that rating would imply. Either way, I'm definitely going to try reading some more of Elizabeth Hand's work, because her writing in this is ...more
I have to say this up front: this book is really weird. The novel takes you on a romp through English Romantic/artistic history but does so sporadically, from a reader's point of view you feel very uprooted and not in control. As the book spirals towards the ending these various perspectives all being to feed into one another to present a complete picture that has only appeared as fragments before. Yet you are still left with a lot of holes in the story that without a background in Medieval and ...more
Apr 21, 2012 Michelle rated it liked it
Shelves: supernatural
Several interweaving stories from the Victorian age to the modern day, each with an artist and an woman as muse. However, there are other characters present in each story, one who seeks to possess the muse. The obsession for this woman goes beyond mortal love. In the contemporary story, Daniel is researching for a book on Tristan and Isolde and meet Larkin, a former lover of a musician friend who inspired some of his best music. She takes him on a strange journey with absinthe, obscure and unkno ...more
Stephanie Graham Pina
Jul 15, 2009 Stephanie Graham Pina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Those with some knowledge of Pre-Raphaelite art
I've also posted this review at my website
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
Dec 08, 2011 Jacqie rated it liked it
I loved Waking the Moon and eagerly hope for the same experience with each of Elizabeth Hand's other novels. I never quite get there. She excels at instilling a sense of reaching wistfulness in her readers, the sense that there's so much more to the story than what she's put down on paper, a sense of inaccessible richness to the world she creates.

That's pretty much the whole story here. We've got several different plotlines in several different timelines, each with a man (or men) obsessed by a
Aug 20, 2011 Leigh rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, fairytales
Mortal Love is the third of Elizabeth Hand’s novels that I have read. Her works blend elements of fairy tales, the supernatural, and Shakespeare, and this work is a story about muse, inspiration and madness.

Though it combines stories from multiple timelines, I did not find this book confusing. However, I will admit that I read it with more attentiveness and analysis than I usually do. I have the impression that Ms. Hand and I disagree about something that I can’t quite put my finger on. But, th
Dec 08, 2009 Amy rated it really liked it
Shelves: litfantasy, 2009
Elizabeth Hand always writes in darkly rich prose, and this book was no exception. She also is beyond reproach in describing artists/hipsters, the world of painters/writers/actors/tattoo artists/hippies, etc. At least one of her characters tends to wear something velvet or silver, and the erotic is described in gorgeous writing.

Despite the title, I thought this book was more about the meeting of the faery world vs. humankind, and what results. In describing how different people experience their
Sarah Sammis
Mar 05, 2012 Sarah Sammis rated it it was ok
Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand was the third of her novels I've read. It's a three in one story of three different men having obsessive relationships with a muse. The premise is like The Muse (1999) with an execution more like The Angel of Forgetfulness by Steve Stern.

One of the threads is set in a dilapidated house in Maine with an attic full of paintings. The other two take place in a flat in London in the present day. While the three different victims don't see the connections in their lives,
As is typical with much of Hand's work, 'Mortal Love' is rife with atmosphere, beautiful descriptions, esoteric subjects and lush prose. There are even encounters with characters who were originally featured in 'Waking the Moon', which was a welcome surprise.

The book outlines the histories of three generations of men and their encounters with the same woman, who acted as lover and muse to them all. A great deal of the book delves into the history of Victorian Pre-Raphaelite and Fairy painting a
Thought this book would be interesting with the blurb I read that described it as an erotic, sensory thriller that revolves around a beautiful muse and her influence on artists throughout time. The book was supposed to delve into the minds of the male artists and explore the passion, intrigue and imagery invoked by the beautiful, myseterious girl and then describe their gradual descent to madness..I did not get any of that from this book all I got was a disjointed, confusing jumbled three part s ...more
Aug 17, 2008 Lia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lia by: Endicott Mythic Fiction group
Shelves: library, read-in-2008
My mystic artist side wandered the dream-like book in fascination and understanding...

But my practical side was quite unsatisfied. The tale is rather disjointed and confusing. I could never remember which character in which era had learned what bit of the puzzle, so I didn't know if whomever I was reading about at the moment should be recognizing something or not.

And I think you have to have spent time in Britain to understand a lot of this. Places are referred to like the reader should know the
Sep 05, 2014 Virginia rated it liked it
Really good, if not my favorite Hand. Filled with self-destructive characters behaving stupidly in the face of Greater Forces. Filled with Celtic mythology and painting. Includes a beautiful, rapturous description of painters' pigments that I am still thinking about. Recommended for stormy days, late autumn, and fine artists.
Jan 29, 2014 Alicia rated it liked it
I enjoyed this but maybe not as much as I could have. I think maybe a lot of the literary and art references were a little deeper than my shallow knowledge. And then secondly, I felt like it was longer than it really needed to be. I spent half the book trying to understand what was going on and when I did, I mostly just wanted the story to wrap up. I didn't really care about Daniel at all. I get that he was enchanted, but he wasn't an artist to begin with, so I had less sympathy and understandin ...more
What a mess! There were some interesting glimmers throughout, but then the author started going into weird, badly explained fairy stuff. I felt like I was reading a long account of someone's very bad drug trip. If the author had stuck to a past/present account of a mysterious woman who was a muse to an artist, I'd have loved it. Oh well.
Sep 24, 2012 Rosie rated it liked it
I really enjoyed reading this story. It wasn't as suspenseful for me as it could have been, but I really liked the mystery aspect. This story follows three men who are haunted by the specter of the same woman. This woman is from another fairy-like world and is immortal. This is one of those where it's hard to tell what might be really happening, and what may be just in the characters' heads. Whenever I encounter writing like this, I always side with the 'it's really happening' idea. It's just mo ...more
Jan 02, 2014 Julie rated it liked it
This novel has three plot lines running through it, all having to do with the motivations involved with human creativity, most notably, having a muse. The muse in this case turns out to be (spoiler alert) an immortal creature from some sort of parallel universe, who is therefore unattainable by mere mortals. I wish the characters had been more well-developed. I also wished that Hand had avoided the parallel universe angle; there are plenty of artists/writers who have found their human muses to b ...more
Fantasy Literature
Jun 11, 2013 Fantasy Literature rated it really liked it
Elizabeth Hand, who famously dealt with the Mother Goddess myth in Waking the Moon and the cult of Dionysus in Black Light, here tackles the subject of the fatal muse: the White Goddess, the lhiannan-sidhe, the Belle Dame Sans Merci.

Mortal Lovedrifts back and forth between several periods of history, between men throughout the years who have fallen under her seductive spell. Along the way there are Hand's usual lush fruit-metaphors and insect-metaphors and jewel-metaphors, and as always her pros
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Endicott Mythic F...: Mortal Love: A Novel 30 44 Nov 17, 2008 07:51AM  
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A New York Times notable and multiple award– winning author, Elizabeth Hand has written seven novels, including the cult classic Waking the Moon, and short-story collections. She is a longtime contributor to numerous publications, including the Washington Post Book World and the Village Voice Literary Supplement. She and her two children divide their time between the coast of Maine and North Londo ...more
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