Erin's Reviews > Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and Millais

Effie by Suzanne Fagence Cooper
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Aug 16, 2014

it was amazing
bookshelves: biography-autobiography-memoir, read-in-2012, favorites, reviewed
Read from June 24 to July 18, 2012

A wonderfully written account of Effie Millais' life and a great depiction of what Victorian England must have been like.
Suzanne Fagence Cooper writes a story using Effie's Letters to and from her family and friends, her and her husbands diaries.

When I first picked up 'Effie' in Waterstones,I was expecting some great love affair-But it's more then that. It's the woman behind the two men she called husband. After finishing the book, I felt an acute sense that I knew Effie and I really felt for her. I came away from the book feeling as if I had made a friend.

Effie was probably one of the more influential woman of early victorian woman's rights.
Effie, married to John Ruskin,a renowned art critic in the Victorian England as well as a man who refused to consummate his marriage.
We are left in the dark sadly about why John Ruskin refused Effie-except by what Effie said and what Ruskin himself said.

In a letter to her Father,George Gray,after five years of marriage and the catalyst of falling in Love with John Everett Millais,who's patron was Ruskin!
Effie finally told her father about her unfortunate marriage and his apparent reasons for his rejection of her.
"He alleged various reasons, hatred to children, religious motives, a desire to preserve my beauty, and, finally this last year he told me his true reason... that he had imagined women were quite different to what he saw I was, and that the reason he did not make me his Wife was because he was disgusted with my person the first evening 10th April."

John Ruskin confirmed these in his statements at court:
"It may be thought strange that I could abstain from a woman who to most people was so attractive. But though her face was beautiful, her person was not formed to excite passion. On the contrary, there were certain circumstances in her person which completely checked it.''

His Disgust with Effie's person is unknown.

Effie went through the undignified act of a virginity test. Effie passed,proving that Ruskin had not consummated his marriage and therefore it was not legally binding.
Effie got her annulment.
A year after the annulment, Effie married John Everett Millais. The Man who had made her want to be free in order to marry again, even though she was hesitant about entering into another marriage after the marriage she had just been through-a marriage she never fully got over.

You would think the tale ends here, but no. Suzanne Fagence Copper takes us through Effie's entire life up until her death. We find out the fates of her children--The trails of Victorian England.

Effie's life was not all sunshine and happiness after her second marriage.
She was no longer accepted into Queen Victoria's Presence because of her annulment. Queen Victoria thought Effie should have kept her mouth shut! Even though Victoria's children still liked Effie and Everett.
Her children and her parents and sisters were riddled with sickness and insanity.
To go through this must have been hard and increases my view that Effie is in fact one of the strongest Victorian woman that I know of.
Effie is my favorite but Georgiana Cavendish comes in second, as of now.

One of the most romantic things that I have read of in a long while is the story of when Everett Millais was dieing in his deathbed,dieing of throat cancer,Queen Victoria's daughter, Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll went to visit the Millais and while she was there gave Millais message from the Queen, who wondered if there was anything she could do for him.
John Everett could no longer speak due to the cancer and simply wrote
''Yes,let her receive my wife.''

To me that shows an enduring love, that even on his deathbed he thought only of her.

People familiar with John Everett Millais work will have seen the portrait of thirteen year old Sophy Gray-Effie's Younger sister-simply titled 'Sophy Gray'.
The painting is-Apparently-a sensual and ''knowing'' image which provoked questions of Millais relationship with his sister in law.
There was a strong affection between the two, and it could have possibly lead to a mutual infatuation between them.

However,I don't believe this due to the fact that there is not enough evidence and Effie, as well as Her parents did not seem to care about the friendship between the two-Letting him chaperone her.
It is RUMORED that Effie had to send Sophy away because of concerns that she and Millais were growing too close.
But the sisters remained close until the end of their lives and Effie often invited Sophy to stay with herself and Everett.
My interpretation of the 'Sophy Gray' is of a girl coming into awareness of her beauty and her body. The knowing look is sort of like 'I know I'm hot.' And 13 year old Sophy Gray did-so much so that she tried to stay that way as she grew into a woman. She suffered from Anorexia nervosa. She refused to eat thinking she was to fat and became semi infertile(she later went on to become a mother of one.)-not having her ''monthly illnesses''. Basically Anorexia nervosa is the Victorian Version of today's anorexia.
Suzanne goes into great detail about the treatments-which I found very interesting.I know that sounds weird but I have a obsession with knowing how 'insanity' was dealt with in the past as I have OCD and often wonder about past treatments.

ANYWAY! Back on subject, BRILLIANT BOOK! I felt as if I walked away with a friend in the ending of the biography.
A Beautifully written, well-researched biography which gives reader's a look into Victorian life.BLOODY GOOD SHOW, CHAPS! 5 STARS!!!

NOW FOR SOME PICTURES!!

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Effie Gray

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John Everett Millais

Mr and Mrs Millais and their daughters Effie jr and Mary Millais. Photograph was taken by Lewis Carroll
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John Ruskin

The History of Effie,Ruskin and Millais has caught the attention of movie makers(:P) and there are now two movies that are coming out.
Effie-Starring Dakota Fanning
Untouched-Starring Keira Knightley

Out of the two, I'm looking forward to ''Untouched'' starring Keira Knightley. Keira is my favourite actress out of the two and has some of Effie's facial features-very little but Dakota dosent have a lot either.
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Effie Gray and Keira Knightley
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Effie Grey And Dakota Fanning
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Reading Progress

12/30/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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message 1: by Ian (new)

Ian Wow! Sounds like an amazing story. John Ruskin sounds like a bit of a tool. I wonder how common his views were?


Erin John everett proved otherwise! They had 8 children together!
Well...I don't like John Ruskin very much when it comes to his personal life-but you can't help but respect his art critic which opened the eyes of many artist-including John Everett!

You Have to read it. But-i think you have to have a personal interest in history to really appreciate this wonderful biography!


Erin ALSO! Due to Effie having to go for a virginity test-this meant the doctors had to see her bits and bobs-Imagine the embrassment!
They said ''We found that the usual signs of viginity are perfect and that she is naturally and properly formed,and there are no impediments on her part to a proper consumation of the marriage''--Quoted from the book.

We have their and John everett's opinions :P


message 4: by Ian (new)

Ian Erin wrote: "ALSO! Due to Effie having to go for a virginity test-this meant the doctors had to see her bits and bobs-Imagine the embrassment! "

I think that's a type of rape. Even if it was cultural appropriate at the time to test a woman's virginity, the guy told them he didn't have sex with her, why do they need to also have a doctor look inside her? It seems vindictive to me.


Erin Indeed it does!
But Ruskin would not admit it until they did the test. He put her in front of many men-left them alone together and hoped for the ''best'' but Effie would not sleep with the other men.
In the victorian public's eyes she could have been lying to sully Ruskins name. Ruckin was,in fact, a dick.
Virginity test are still accepted in some countries today--i find that repulsive!! Its the woman body not their's to mess around with.


message 6: by Laura (new) - added it

Laura Great review Erin!!


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