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The Wayward Muse: A Novel
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The Wayward Muse: A Novel

3.34 of 5 stars 3.34  ·  rating details  ·  247 ratings  ·  49 reviews
"I apologize again for my boldness, but I must tell you that you're the most beautiful girl in Oxford. Maybe in all of England. I have to put you in my painting."

With these words, the scandalous, wildly talented painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti changes seventeen-year-old Jane Burden's life forever. Jane's gaunt, awkward figure and grave expression have cemented her reputat
Paperback, 320 pages
Published July 8th 2008 by Washington Square Press (first published 2007)
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This book gets 3 stars because of the subject matter. The author's actual writing ability? Awful. It read like a cheesy romance novel. The ridiculous way the author paints William "Topsy" Morris is deplorable. Yes, he was teased by friends, but he was a great name in philosophy, arts, politics, poetry, and other topics. Show the man some respect!

In summary, the only person I would recommend this book to would be either someone who loves trite romance novels and knows nothing of the Pre-Raphaelit
I learned part way through this book that it is actually based on real historical figures prominent in the Pre-Raphaelite art movement. Figuring this out didn't help the transparent plot, or the weak and pathetic characters.

The book centers on the love affair between Jane Burden (later Morris) and Dante Gabriel Rosetti. Rosetti is a talented painter who retains Jane as his model and muse.

The writing is pedestrian, imagery is lacking, tension between characters is laughable, the plot is thin and

While I enjoyed reading about the Pre-Raphaelite circle this book felt rather pedestrian. It was very matter-of-fact in its presentation with no beauty in the writing and no real emotion coming out of these supposed great and tragic loves. I was happy to have a number of books in my collection with illustrations of the art and homes of the P-R's as I really needed outside sources to be able to fully visualize the paintings and settings in the book. I also hated the cover which, to me, did not a ...more
Well-researched but uninspired novelization of the life of Jane Burden, who was William Morris' wife and Dante Gabriel Rossetti's model and lover. Unfortunately, while the Pre Raphaelites are fascinating, this book often reads like a soppy romance novel, and the dialogue is banal.
Donna Nguyen
I am lost between categorizing this read as a tragic love story or a hopeless romance. I loved how Jane's character slowly molded and changed through the progression of the novel. I was also torn between feeling sympathy for Jane's fate or disgusted by her decisions. The struggle between love and obligation. Is one moment of fulfilled desire worth a lifetime of culpability? An amazing read. I would highly recommend people read The Wayward Muse!
Sara Pauff
For a novel about art and beauty, the writing seemed rather bland. The story is about Jane Burden, one of the frequent models for the Pre-Raphaelite artists William Morris and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. The most interesting character was Rossetti and I liked how Hickey portrayed his tendency to confuse art with reality. He falls in love with Jane after she acts as a model for his painting of Lancelot and Guinevere. He frequently calls her Guinevere and seems to like her best when she is sitting for ...more
Linda Lipko
I'm fascinated by the Victorian painters who were a part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Their art is exquisite! Thus, I was anxious to read this book regarding Jane Burden-Morris who was the model for many of the most stunning paintings that came from this movement.

When attending a theater production, Jane's life changed dramatically the day she met Dante Gabriel Rossetti. At the ripe age of 17, Dante plucked her like a pomegranate and took her from poverty to the rich, exciting world of the
Jane Burden is seventeen years old, the daughter of an abusive and uncaring mother and distant father, facing marriage to an cruel boy and a life of continued poverty in the slums. This all changes when painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti "discovers" her and declares her the "most beautiful girl in all of Oxford". This, however, is not the typical Cinderella story. The real Rossetti, Jane Burden (later Morris) and the rest of the Pre-Raphaelite movement lived far too elaborate lives to fit i ...more
This was a charming book about the pre-Raphaelites, an era where both men and women were given to excess of emotion and willing to over-romanticize situations to death. Given to me as a gift (I recently published a book called "Ophelia's Wayward Muse"), I found the theme of the "wayward muse" explored in my poetry was explored in historical fiction in a very similar fashion. The obvious thought behind the "Madonna/whore" phenomenon in which women have been often typecast, even in eras that ideal ...more
I've been fascinated by the Pre-Raphaelite movement ever since the Clark Art Museum in Williamstown, MA, hosted a special exhibit on Dante Gabriel Rossetti (and colleagues) in 2001 and everyone in town kept telling me, "Go see it! The paintings all look like you!" While that is arguable, the show sparked my own interest in the Pre-Raphaelites.

"The Wayward Muse" is a well-researched work of historical fiction that traces Jane Burden's rise from the slums of Oxford to her work as Rossetti's model,
I have no idea how I came upon this book, but there it was on my bookshelf one day when I was trying to choose what to read next. On the cover, there's a quote from Booklist: "Haunting and lyrical; the reader will be captivated." This book was not haunting nor lyrical, and I was not captivated. I find the word 'lyrical' the most offensive. Hickey's writing is bland. This is a fictional book based on real people and events, but it reads like a non-fiction biography. I was so bored each time I was ...more
Belinda Kroll
Excellent writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, despite Jane’s character, which makes me respect Hickey even more. Once I realized the plot, I almost put the book away, except Hickey’s writing and depiction of the characters stayed my hand. This book is one of the best fiction depictions of a real Victorian marriage that I have read yet; the main characters are real people, and while the story may not be entirely factual, the plot seems to follow the real time-line faithfully. The writing sty ...more
Susan Liston
Like her other book "The Painted Kiss" about Gustav Klimt, this reads like a PG-13 YA novel. But this one was worse because there was more "romance", therefore more opportunity for eye-rolling moments. The Pre-Raphaelites were a group with plenty of truth-is-stranger-than-fiction drama about them, and this is pretty lightweight stuff.
Mar 21, 2009 Dev rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Historical Fiction Fans
I picked up this book because it was historical fiction, and I enjoyed it. I do not have much knowledge about the 17th century art movement that occurs in the novel, so I am not sure how accurate it is. But then again when reading historical fiction, it is best not to take things as hard fact.
The detail given to the costuming, artwork and living situation is very well done. And the dynamics of the relationships are interesting. I have to say that I was never able to feel for Jane Burden as the m
Rossetti and William Morris
J. Ewbank
This is kind of a historical novel and it was fair. Was not familiar with the characters before reading the book so it probably wasn't as interesting to me as it could have been if I were more familiar with the background.

The characters were pretty well drawn and the plot was a little short to me but againt hat might have been my fault for not knowing more about the historical basis of the book.

Some undoubtedly will enjoy this short book.

J. Robert Ewbank author "John Wesley, Natural Man, and the
As I was reading this novel, I really enjoyed it. When I realized that it was based on letters and journals of real people, I liked it even more.

That almost never happens. Usually when I find out that a story is based on real events I'm annoyed. There isn't usually a reason for this reaction, but something that I can't really put my finger on. True stories don't usually do it for me.

But this, I just found myself more interested in the characters and ended up reading other things about them as we
Always find the PRB interesting. One of the hardest challenges of historical fiction is to capture the language of the era. Does the dialogue ring true? A suspension of disbelief is required on the part of the reader for this aspect.
Before reading this book I didn’t know anything about Rossetti or the Pre-Raphaelites but I found this book really interesting. I found that I couldn’t really connect to the main character Jane, the story is told through her eyes with a fair amount of self-pity injected into the prose and I felt I couldn’t really feel sorry for her, although this did make her an interesting character. Overall I found I really liked this book, the story flowed well and the characters were all very interesting.
Maggie Allbee
I didn't like the writer's style. She has a tendency to insult the reader. I found the book predictable and lacking in depth -- both with the characters and the storyline. While well-researched, she did little to express to the reader just how important and revolutionary these artists were. Even the cover was cheesy. Not a fan. Also, it would have benefited greatly from having some images/pictures. How can you write a book about artists but include no imagery??
I like historical fiction, and had relatively high expectations for this book. The first sections I thought were good, but then I think that the action happens too fast. I want to know more! More about what the main characters think and feel. And I also think that there are some loose ends in the book. What happened to Georgie for example?
I feel that the author has only scratched the surface of something that could have been a very good story ...
Aug 19, 2007 Emily rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: art fans who don't mind weak protagonists
Shelves: booksofthepast
Weak? That's right. I think the women of Elizabeth Hickey's books are defined by the brilliant men in their lives and that annoys me. Despite that, it is really exciting that the books are about art. In this case, it's Gabriel Dante Rosetti, William Morris, and the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood. I like art, I like reading about art, and so I'll probably read another book by Hickey (if there are anymore). That's about all I have to say about that.
Mar 09, 2008 Beth rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of Victorian art, history & romance
Interesting novel about the Pre Raphaelite painters/poets.
Most specifically Gabriel Dante Rosetti, William Morris, Jane Burden Morris & Lizzie Sidall. I have owned a large print of Persopone for years. The face & figure of Rosetti's beautiful rendering is that of Jane Morris. This is an interesting, part factual, part fictional account of her entry into the charmed & cursed circle of the Pre-Raphelite Brother/Sisterhood & life thereafter.
I'm quite enjoying this historical fiction/romance. It belongs in the category with all the other "story behind the painting" books, like Girl with a Pearl Earring, etc. The protagonist is a young woman who models for Dante Gabriel Rossetti and later marries William Morris. The line between fact and fiction in this story is very blurred, and it prompts me to read some biographies of these artists to learn more about their lives.
Christie Hinrichs
Despite my enthusiasm for all things related to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, i gave up on this book shortly after chapter five. The characters were exceptionally flat, the plot formulaic and uninteresting. With an embarrassment of riches to choose from, I find it unforgivable that Hickey didn't include more detail of the brotherhood's morbid philosophy and eccentricity. Besides, Lizzie Siddal was the real star of that sideshow.
Kate Forsyth
'The Wayward Muse' tells the story of Jane Burden, muse to the pre-Raphaelites, wife of William Morris, lover of Dante Gabriel Rossetti. I really loved this book! I have always been fascinated by the pre-Raphaelites and wondered why no-one had written a book about them (I've read a few biographies but somehow novels are so much more fun to read!) I'd really recommend this to anyone who loves novels about art and artists.
This is a work of historical fiction, which I didn't realize until the end of the book. That made the story more intriguing and more rich for me. It was really cool to know that this author took the time to envision what their lives were like based on the little tidbits of information that had been left about them. Really cool.
It is about William Morris, the father of the Arts and Crafts movement, his wife Jane and others including Dante Gabriel Rossetti who were members of Morris's decorative arts collective. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of the homes and clothing and customs of this time.
This was one of the most wonderful books I have ever read!!! It had passion, love, excitement, disappointment, all wrapped up in it..I am so happy to have read it and I encourage anyone interested in Art and The Pre-Raphealite Brotherhood to read it!!!
I felt like my interest ebbed as I went. I would say about 70 pages from the end it felt into what felt like routine. That being said, I did still enjoy the book. I like reading a book that though fiction, is based on actual history.
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Elizabeth Agnes (Malet-Warden) Hickey.
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