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Beauty in Thorns

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  479 ratings  ·  113 reviews
A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets.

The Pre-Raphaelites were determined to liberate art and love from the shackles of convention.

Ned Burne-Jones had never had a painting lesson and his family wanted him to be a parson. Only young Georgie Macdonald – the daughter of a Methodist minister –
Paperback, 464 pages
Published July 3rd 2017 by Vintage Australia
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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Trigger warning: (view spoiler)

This was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions that started strong but ended a little weakly.

It's another book where the blurb tells the whole story, which is frustrating but understandable when there's no real beginning, middle, or end. It's a fictional account of real lives, which I suppose makes it a little harder to form into a concise narrative.

So what's it about?

Painters. Poets. Artists. The
Amanda - Mrs B's Book Reviews
The fascinating bohemian world of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, headed by well known artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and John Everett Millais, come to life through the penmanship of revered storyteller Kate Forsyth. Beauty in Thorns is Forsyth’s latest piece of work, inspired by the fairytale Sleeping Beauty. It is also a reimagining of many key historical figures and events that occurred in the art world in late Victorian England.

In 1848, the art w
Theresa Smith
Jun 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: aww2017
For well over a year now I have followed the journey of this novel, Beauty in Thorns, from its first draft, through the re-writes, and then onto the finished product. Kate Forsyth is a most generous author to follow on social media. She shares much of her writing life and where her research has taken her and I enjoy interacting with this process immensely. As well as being incredibly interesting, it allows you to become attached to a novel before it has even been finished. The anticipation peaks ...more
Banafsheh Serov
Aug 12, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I know I'm bucking the trend here. All these 4-star reviews!
I really, REALLY wanted to love this book. Or at least like it. I've met Kate a number of times, heard her speak at events and on radio, and each time her passion about her subject matter sucks me in.
I loved Bitter Greens - the perfect chemistry of real historical characters and fairy tales.
And yes, I did come to this book with much anticipation and excitement!
But alas, disappointment!!!
Yes the book is well researched. Yes Forsyth is a
Elizabeth Corbett
Aug 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A fabulous read, as always with Kate Forsyth's books. Though the lives of the pre-Raphaelite women do not make light reading. The story is compelling, if at times, it is horrifying to witness the helpless plight of women in this era. Wonderful tactile descriptions. Some great food for thought on the artistic temperament. Forsyth manages to finish on a high note and leave the reader with some light at the end of the journey. For a fuller review see:
Lisa - (Aussie Girl)
Beautifully written and researched imagining of the lives of the passionate and somewhat tragic Pre-Raphaelite artists and the women who inspired them. Poignant, sometimes heart breaking but definitely thought provoking I have never been more thankful to be a woman of the 21st century after reading the aptly titled Beauty in Thorns, where no matter a women's beauty, intelligence or talent she was always at the whim of a man.

4.5 stars
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
Kate is a must read for me and I have all her books. Never disappoints – always fascinating and captivating. Again with Beauty in Thorns, this was an exceptionally researched and wonderful historical fiction. Kate effortlessly takes you to another time and place. The lives of the Pre-Raphaelites seen through the lives of the women who were the muses, lovers and wives of these artists is at the centre of this book and usually I give Kate a 5, but dropping one off unfortunately this time because I ...more
Sue Gerhardt Griffiths
What a story! I had no idea what to expect as I’ve never read a Kate Forsyth book before until now and I can honestly say I will be picking up every one of her books because this was… BREATHTAKING!!! I loved every single thing about this book, the characters, the art work, the poetry, the beautiful descriptive writing… everything! I am now a huge fan of Kate Forsyth - a superlative storyteller.
Ellen Read
Oct 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beauty in Thorns – Kate Forsyth

I love Kate Forsyth’s writing and when Beauty in Thorns was released I couldn’t wait to read it.

It is a story set around the Pre-Raphaelite circle of artists and poets, including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

For many years, I’ve adored their wonderful paintings, so I knew I’d love getting lost in their tumultuous world. I discovered there was so much I hadn’t known about their work and their relationships. Kate Forsyth brings to li
Kirsty Manning
Jun 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kate Forsyth writes with the poise and attention to detail that reminds me of AS Byatt.
Beauty in Thorns is a remarkable novel that captures the spirit and wonder of the Pre-Raphaelites. I've just finished the novel and I want to go back to the beginning to read it all over again. A sure sign of a very special book.
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy from the Australian publisher, Penguin Random House.
Madelaine Goakes
Aug 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating insight, part fiction but historically correct, into the lives of the Pre-Raphelite painters. I loved this book.
Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: signed-by-author
Beauty In Thorns is the latest offering by one of my favourite Australian authors Kate Forsyth, renowned for her fairytale re-tellings. I went into this believing Beauty In Thorns was going to be loosely based on the sleeping beauty fairytale. Wrong!

What I discovered instead was a fascinating look at the lives of a group of successful artists known as the Pre-Raphaelites, which included Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Ned Burne-Jones and William Morris. Yes, William Morris of the medieval inspired wallp
Kim Wilkins
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I didn't intend to read this book this weekend, but I had just finished a Georgette Heyer and was in the mood to keep reading in my hammock. Then I couldn't stop and last night finished it very late, then slept through my alarm and missed my PT session (which I couldn't have attended anyway as my eyes were still swollen from crying). In short:

Kate is a dear friend, and I saw her go deep, very deep, in writing this book. I see now what must have happened: her writing sessions must have had
Elise McCune
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beauty in Thorns – Kate Forsyth
Beauty in Thorns is a book I was waiting to read after following Kate Forsyth’s blog during the time she was writing the story. Kate, is a wonderful writer and also one who is generous in sharing her writing skills and knowledge with other authors.

~ Quotes from the backcover blurb.
‘A spellbinding reimagining of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets.’
‘Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and
Kali Napier
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I’ve been waiting for this book for a very long time. For 26 years, in fact, ever since I received a framed print of Rossetti’s Proserpina for my 15th birthday. I’m pretty much a Pre-Raph Tragic, so when Kate Forsyth announced she was writing a book on the PR Sisterhood about 2 years ago, I was beside myself. And then I got it into my hands a few days ago and devoured it. Told from multiple points of view — Lizzie Siddal, Jane Morris, Georgiana Burne-Jones and Margot Burne-Jones, the wives and a ...more
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Beauty in Thorns is a beautifully written story by Kate Forsyth.

It is a spellbinding reimaging of 'Sleeping Beauty' set amongst the wild bohemian circle of Pre-Raphelites artists and poets.

Words are beautifully intertwined throughout the pages of this book.

Filled with imagination and a scattering of fairy-dust to keep you interested.

I enjoyed reading about England and the hardships of the 19th century and learning about history.

Being a lover of art, flowers and all things beautiful ~ I thoroughl
Kim Elith
Sep 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating fictional account of the lives of the Pre-Raphaelites seen through the lives of the women who were the muses, lovers and wives of these groundbreaking artists. I have always loved the art from this period so it was so interesting to read about the inspirations and sometimes traumatic events that shaped each of the key players in this movement. Highly recommended.
Ju Transcendancing
An ARC of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The release of Beauty in Thorns is one that I've been looking forward to throughout 2017 and I'm delighted that I had the opportunity to read it for review ahead of its release. This book draws again on the historical background of fairy tales, not just their origins but also how those stories were used and told and celebrated throughout history. In that sense, Beauty in Thorns is unique in its retelling of Sleepi
Dilly Dalley
This novel of the women of the pre-raphaelite sisterhood, came recommended by an acquaintance and I'm pleased I took her advice. I had wanted to read some Kate Forsyth since I heard her interviewed by Richard Fidler, and so when the recommendation came up, I purchased the novel.

I enjoyed the way the author, Kate Forsyth, wove in strands of myths and legends, with the tales of the dramatic lives of her characters, and the paintings they were working on. I kept stopping, putting the book down, an
Rachael McDiarmid
Aug 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. No surprise as I have a soft spot for Kate Forsyth and have loved many of her books. I also *love* the Pre-Raphaelites so I knew before I started this book that I was going to love it. Surprisingly I had never read about the lives of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones, - yet I've traipsed through art galleries for years searching for their works (and other painters of that school) - nor had I read about William Morris. And even more so surprisingly I had never read abo ...more
Lauren Chater
Jul 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Gorgeous book!! Will write review later x
Feb 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I adored this book! Kate Forsyth's writing is gorgeous and immersive and flows beautifully between the several narratives presented in the book. ...more
Jo | Booklover Book Reviews
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
4.75 Stars. I am a long time fan of Forsyth’s adult fairytale retellings ( Bitter Greens , The Wild Girl , The Beast's Garden ) and Beauty in Thorns is one of the 2017 book releases I have been looking forward to ever since hearing Kate speak so passionately about it at the Brisbane Writers Festival last year. Firstly, do not be put off by the size of this beautiful tome. Its 480 pages just fly by… Kate’s writing style smooth as silk. But only after I had emerged from the reading exp ...more
Karen Brooks
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Utterly sublime. Proper review to follow.
Josephine Pennicott
Sep 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In 1997, I made a pilgrimage to Birchington-on-Sea, Kent, England, to pay my respects at the grave of Gabriel Rossetti, the English painter, poet and charismatic co-founder of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.

Gabriel was convalescing from an illness when he died in Birchington. His family and his wife, Lizzie Siddal, are buried in Highgate Cemetery in London. It always seemed to me very sad that Gabriel wasn’t laid to rest near his family and Lizzie. Was it due to his guilt over having dug up his
Jul 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
A beautifully crafted historical fiction that ensnares the reader with vivacious characters and wonderful writing, slowly drawing you into the tangled, tumultuous lives of the Pre-Raphaelite women.

As part of Kate Forsyth’s fairytale retelling series, this was a little difficult to discern the relation to the tale of the Briar Rose (aka. Sleeping Beauty). It was not until I was deep into the sadness of Part Three that I realised it was mimicking the story perfectly, the initial golden years for a
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oneclick
Kate is an adept story teller and this was a story of epic proportion about a group of artist which up until now had not really crossed my path. Since completing the book I've done some reading about the pre raphaelite movement and realised that I was very familiar with their works. I guess that says something about the author, if he or she sparks further inquiry in the reader. I found the story of the interwoven friendships rather somber ( there didn't seem to be a lot of joyful events ) but I ...more
A fabulous immersive story of the women in the preRaphelite Brotherhood. Kate Forsyth knows her subjects well and makes you feel like you're a fly on the wall in their lives. Very hard to know what is the fictional part of their lives and what has been drawn from history, it feels seamless. The women's stories are told in the wonderful setting of Victorian England and all the changes that were taking place at the time but restrained by Victorian Era values. Sleeping Beauty is a theme followed th ...more
Sam Still Reading
Jul 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love the attention to detail and history in Kate Forsyth’s novels. It’s like reading history come to life. With the addition of a fairy tale (in this case, Sleeping Beauty), her stories really sparkle. I love how she combines the fairy tale with an unlikely setting – who would have thought that the Pre-Raphaelite painters could have this story within their lives? It’s masterful and intricate.

Now I must admit that I’m not terribly big on paintings and drawings (in fact, the last time I went to
Amy Smolcic
Sep 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Kate Forsyth is one of Australia’s leading voices in historical fiction. Her latest novel Beauty in Thorns unveils the story of the Pre-Raphaelites, particularly focussing on the sisterhood of the group and their pivotal role in the art/literature that came from it.

The Pre-Raphaelites lived an enthralling and fascinating lifestyle. There was enough drama between them to rival the gripping and scandelous plot of your favourite tv soap opera.

A prevalent theme of the novel is love and its various
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Kate Forsyth wrote her first novel at the age of seven, and is now the internationally bestselling author of 40 books for both adults and children.

Her books for adults include 'Beauty in Thorns', the true love story behind a famous painting of 'Sleeping Beauty'; 'The Beast's Garden', a retelling of the Grimm version of 'Beauty & the Beast', set in the German underground resistance to Hitler in WW

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