Despite criticism that this plot couldn't be true, I happen to know that the entire book was based on historical facts, only conversations and such we...moreDespite criticism that this plot couldn't be true, I happen to know that the entire book was based on historical facts, only conversations and such were fictionalized. The entire plot followed real life events and persons of that time, down to very small details. The hero and heroine, though fictional are composites of historical figures. (less)
I want to preface this review with this: There are two things a reader feels when reading about a subject they know a lot about (1) How they would tel...moreI want to preface this review with this: There are two things a reader feels when reading about a subject they know a lot about (1) How they would tell a story (2) How much research has been used. I would never write Percy Shelley like this, but I know how well he is written and how much research was used, not only in history but in what people thought about Shelley and Circle in 1850.
That said, the author has been totally inventive and original in her retelling of certain mysteries and tragic events in Shelley and Circle's lives. What did happen to Percy Shelley in Tan-yr-allt? What is the truth about his relationship with Claire Clairmont? Why did he really marry Mary Godwin? Who really authored Frankenstein and how and why? Who fathered Elena Adelaide Shelley in 1818? In fact, the list could go on and on and on.
Shepherd takes her own detective, Maddox, and gives him a puzzle to solve, only there are many puzzles, not just one. Both Maddox and the reader take a wild Gothic journey that leads to an unravelling of multiple secrets that center around Percy Shelley, Mary Godwin, and Claire Clairmont.
I love the fact that Claire is finally getting her due. I really like "The Mary Shelley" resolution. What I did not like was how Percy Shelley was portrayed in this book. Historically, it's not true. His dialogue in this story was very difficult for me to accept. I've read his letters and poems many times, and I just could not get over how Shelley was portrayed.
Other things I liked: The use of third person omniscient point of view. I had not read that before, maybe some of the opening of Bleak House and so I wanted to read some other books that used this technique to see how this author carried it out. Very, very good. Controlled. And it adds to the storytelling.
I also want to add that it takes courage to write a story like this, even if it is just fiction and a mystery at that. Because there will always be people who won't like what happens to certain characters. I am attached to Percy Shelley and I'd like to have seen him a bit more serious but that doesn't take away from this story. Once you understand Shelley's fear, then you realize his anxieties are real. You have to step into the story, suspend your own bias and let Shepherd tell her tale the way she sees it for her characters.
Highly recommended, especially for lovers of Historical Mystery.
We all have to ask ourselves what would have heppened if Shelley and Byron had not met Edward John Trelawny or if EJT had not met Shelley and Byron. W...moreWe all have to ask ourselves what would have heppened if Shelley and Byron had not met Edward John Trelawny or if EJT had not met Shelley and Byron. Would history have changed?
I like Trelawny more than others. He's extremely interesting as a person and as a person who knew he had met genius.
Trelawny's work is always uneven, but as a glimpse into the lives of Shelley and Byron in those last days, it is essential reading.(less)
The best story on the West Memphis Three, a case I have followed since it was reported on the local news. Very complex and it's not what it appears, n...moreThe best story on the West Memphis Three, a case I have followed since it was reported on the local news. Very complex and it's not what it appears, not simple, and I believe most people, even those looking for social justice are not looking at the story correctly.(less)
**spoiler alert** Edited review. July 17th. I just reread this book and liked it so much better. I think I had some kind of false expectations. It's a...more**spoiler alert** Edited review. July 17th. I just reread this book and liked it so much better. I think I had some kind of false expectations. It's as good as any of his books but not my favorite. So I have given it five stars! Let me begin by writing that I love Tim Powers and The Stress of Her Regard is one of my favorite books. I have bought all his novels. And I will certainly buy the next. But I did not love this book. It had so many problems, I wanted to pull my hair out at times.
And how I wanted to love it. I loved the very idea of it, for so many reasons. Tim Powers writes secret histories of real people, usually literary people and throws in some supernatural element and tells a different version of why things happened to these people. He has a problem of overwriting, meaning he wants to include so much and so many characters. Usually he gains control, but not in this book. In this case, there is John Crawford, the descendant of the former character in The Stress of Her Regard. Then there are five other point-of-view characters: Christina Rossetti, Gabriel Rossetti, William Rossetti, Algernon Swinbourne, and John Edward Trelawny. These are only the characters with a point-of-view. There are dozens of other characters who drop in, some for one scene and others for repeated scenes. The contest for whose story this is, lies between Christina Rossetti and John Crawford, though neither really gains the story's heart and soul. That's the problem.
I read and reread, wondering why I felt that this book was a hodgepodge of too much. I loved it at times, then I hated it, and then I was torn and frustrated. It had such promise.
I think it's because it was too big and too much. There are four different time periods. We should like Christina Rossetti or at least feel something for her, some kind of connection, but Powers does not let us connect.
John Polidori is the villain and yet, he's not scary, he's not threatening anyone to where I feel it or believe it. And there were so many places there Powers could have grabbed the reader, but he didn't. The tension was destroyed by street chases and lots of description. No one really feels anything in this book. They talk, they act, they fight, they plan, but they don't feel. There is absolutely no suspense, and when anticipation was created, it was later killed off too early by some other action.
I just think Powers couldn't hold on to what he wanted to do in this story. After all, a book cannot be all things. And this book is a hodgepodge with a mythology that doesn't quite work for me this time around.
That said, someone who does not know the characters as well as I do from study might appreciate this book more. They may love all that description and action and like the idea of these writers, painters, poets, and so forth running around London trying to keep Polidori from taking their souls. Believe me, I wanted to. But I didn't.(less)
I wanted to add this to my list. It's a very interesting novel and another one of those that I feel is an acquired taste. You need to love art and art...moreI wanted to add this to my list. It's a very interesting novel and another one of those that I feel is an acquired taste. You need to love art and art history to enjoy it.(less)
I finished this last night after months of reading on it. Not my first read, but the first time I have read it in a long time. Love this book. It's on...moreI finished this last night after months of reading on it. Not my first read, but the first time I have read it in a long time. Love this book. It's one of those fictionalized biograhies, this time about a group of artists and writers in 19th century London. The Brownings, etc.(less)
I bought this book because it is about a flaming-red headed girl who poses as a model for a Pre-Raphaelite wannabe in Dante Gabriel Rossett...more 3.5 stars
I bought this book because it is about a flaming-red headed girl who poses as a model for a Pre-Raphaelite wannabe in Dante Gabriel Rossetti's London.
However, the book is not about Rossetti or about art and so I was disappointed. But once I got past that, I became engaged in the story.
(NOTE: The author uses Omniscient POV, which is really the author and thus, there is never a deep narration. The author is telling the story with insights into all characters and so forth. It's much like reading an old Victorian novel. I don't really like this unless I am reading Victorian novels, but my mind soon adjusted. If it has not been set in Victorian London, I would have not read on. Warning, this type of POV is not good for modern fiction.)
The heroine of the tale is one Ivy Jackson, who at the age of five, falls in with some theives. Part I and some 90 pages of the book details this episode, which was overlong for the return of this cast of characters and the ending. However, I did enjoy this part and learned a few things, did some research and found the author a master of description.
Part II is Ivy, years later, returned to her family of cousins and aunt in the slums of London where she is spotted by the Pre-Raphalite wannabe and hired to pose for him. He is a social imbecile with a narcissistic and doting mother. Ivy, an opium addict of sorts, dislikes the both of them but is trapped into posing by her family who needs the money. What the reader sees here and I loved this part is that Ivy is trapped in a life from which she cannot escape, not even with her flaming-red hair! The jealous mother soon becomes more a danger than the life with the thieves. There are some serious issues here, and some hauntings of the model Lizzie Siddal, who hangs over the story as the Fate Ivy might choose for herself.
We do get inside No. 16 Cheyne Walk, (if you are a Pre-Raphalite lover then you know who lives there) and we get glimpses and shadows of that life. But it's not enough. It's not the focus of the story. It is a hint at what fate might bring to Ivy.
However, our little heroine overcomes her addiction, throws off her needy and cruel family, and finds a new life for herself. It has a happy ending. And no, there's no prince to save her, no love triangle, no false fantasy about what life had to offer. It's all grounded in reality.
Why I could not give it four or five stars when it could have been that: The Ending was rushed. It needed as much time as Part I. The character of Rosa should have been introduced a lot earlier. The thieves who returned at the end should have had a bigger part. That scene was wasted. And it left some threads hanging a bit.
But I did not dislike this book. I like it enough to read all the way through and enjoy the highly descriptive writing of the author. This is her wonderful gift. Maybe her editor wanted the story cut shorter. I don't know. A lot goes into the making and finishing and selling of a book. For anyone who loves Victorian London and wants to see and feel and smell the city, this is a good book to read.(less)
A re-read. This is one of my favorite novels, given to me by a friend for Christmas the year it came out. Magic never looked so good.
It's work to rea...moreA re-read. This is one of my favorite novels, given to me by a friend for Christmas the year it came out. Magic never looked so good.
It's work to read this book, but when you finish, you will know that it's not a just a book, but a work of art and the work of a lifetime.
Mannered fantasy set in the time of Napoleon that follows the tale of two men at odds over magic and how bringing magic back to England both creates and destroys. Has footnotes. Metafiction. Post-modern literature.(less)