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Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  632 ratings  ·  107 reviews
The Scottish beauty Effie Gray is the heroine of a great Victorian love story. Married at 19 to John Ruskin, she found herself trapped in an unconsummated union. She would fall in love with her husband’s protégé, John Everett Millais, and inspire some of his most memorable art, but controversy and tragedy continued to stalk her.

Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive a
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published June 21st 2011 by St. Martin's Press (first published May 1st 2010)
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May 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I've always admired Pre-Raphaelite art and I'd heard a few things here and there about Effie Gray, the wife of painter John Everett Millais, but I had no idea that she'd been through so much grief with her first husband, the critic John Ruskin.

Ruskin never consummated his marriage to Effie; he had a taste for slender young girls in early adolescence. "John Ruskin loved young girls, innocents on the verge of womanhood. He became enchanted with twelve-year-old Effie when she visited Herne Hil
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
Just watched a movie based on this three characters, written by Emma Thompson.

A look at the scandalous love triangle between Victorian art critic John Ruskin, his teenage bride Effie Gray, and Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.
Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This account is about three prominent people in Victorian England. Effie married a man who was abusive and refused to consummate their relationship. She sued for an annulment which was unheard of at the time. He was an up-and-coming art critic. She and one of her first husband's associates, a famous painter in his own right, fall in love, marry & have 8 children. The book explores these and other close relationships with a watchful eye.

The book is also about what it was like to live in Victorian
I really enjoyed this book! The Pre-Raphaelites are one of my favorite periods of art, so I’m always glad to read a story related to them. Effie Gray was a beautiful educated young woman when she married art critic John Ruskin at age 19. Ruskin had become obsessed with her at age 12, but when he saw her on their wedding night, it was not what he had expected. I did some research on him after reading the book and it looks like he was not homosexual as some have suggested but may have been a pedop ...more
Aug 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
This is an excellent look into the life of Effie Grey, who is primarily known for her marriages in the world of Victorian art. Cooper had unprecedented access to Effie's letters, generously lent by the Millais family. For the most part, Cooper makes excellent use of them as she untangles Effie's first, and rather troubled, marriage to John Ruskin. Ruskin's voice is so powerful and so authoritative even all these years later that it is a joy to finally hear Effie, to get her side of the tale. How ...more
Nov 03, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
The story of Effie throws a light on the world of art in the late 19th century, and the way in which social conditions (relationships, social attitudes, health and politics) impact on the lives of individuals. In this case the individuals move in the higher social classes, but the point is still well made. As always delightful to find small mentions of places I have seen or visited.
Brenda Clough
Jul 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Excellent, although possibly not organized in the best way. Flashbacks are confusing.
Susan Liston
This is perfectly fine. But I got a little bogged down at times, mainly because I've read lots about these people before (and have seen the Emma Thompson movie) so I already know the overall story, this was a little more detail than I needed at this time. But for a first encounter with the subject, it will certainly fill you in. ...more
Jun 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Pretty interesting biography of the wife of John Ruskin; perhaps the first section on their doomed marriage is the most compulsive part. Ruskin remains a total enigma- genius in the art world, a man who liked his own company, liked living with his parents, liked little girls but not women : just why did he saddle himself with a wife? As the (much younger) Effie, ignored and untouched by her husband, takes to socializing, she faces the increasing unpleasantness of Ruskin and his doting parents. A ...more
Kim Bjarkman
Feb 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Note: This review contains ‘spoilers,’ especially if the reader is not already familiar with the subjects of this historical biography and what happened to them.
* * * *

I found the real-life character of Effie Gray as narrated in these pages to be a somewhat disagreeable and not entirely sympathetic figure, but her story interwoven with Ruskin’s and Millais’ is a fascinating one, expertly stitched together here from exclusive access to the necessary primary documents, chiefly comprised of corre
Sep 08, 2014 rated it liked it
Such a fascinating book about art and women in Victorian England. I would have liked to go more in depth in some areas, but I thoroughly enjoyed the story of Effie Gray, from her disastrous first marriage to her life as the wife, social secretary, and business advisor to the greatest painter of the Victorian age. Particularly valuable is Cooper's defence of Millais's development out of the PRB, though I could have done with much more depth.

A great book for any fan of Pre-Raphaelites, Victoriana
This audiobook kept my attention throughout, but I felt the earlier, John Ruskin-centered passages were more interesting than the later parts about Effie's marriage to Millais and her children. However, with the audiobook, you don't get to see the pictures which I assume were in the book (it is in part about an artist and his models) and it is hard to judge whether the author is over-dramatizing incidents. I suspect, however, that much if not all of the description is supported by the parties' e ...more
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Over half term, Peter and I visited Brantwood, John Ruskin''s home overlooking Coniston Water in the Lake District. It was wonderful and we found out so much about Ruskin. I was tempted to buy a biography of his wife Effie Grey. It tells of her life with Ruskin, the annulment of their marriage and her life with her second husband John Everett Millais. I found her story absolutely facinating, very readable and full of information about the lives of Victorian women, the Previous Raphaelite brother ...more
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A fluent, easy-to-read biography of this strong, charismatic woman. There are interesting insights into the role of the Victorian wife too and the business-like manner in which Everett Millais was forced to live his life.
Mar 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
This story would never have been told if a lifetime of correspondence had not been preserved. What a fascinating life Effie had compared to the women of her day.
Michelle Long
Oct 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book. Easy to read, engaging, not overly long, and well researched.
Elizabeth (Miss Eliza)
*Special Content only on my blog, Strange and Random Happenstance during "This" Summer: A Lauren Willig Theme Month for the release of That Summer (May 2014)

Effie Grey thought that in marrying the erudite author and art critic John Ruskin that she was entering a life of parties and soirees peopled by the elite of London. Instead this young Scotch girl entered a loveless marriage where she was repeatedly berated and belittled not just by her husband but by her in-laws as well. She suffered throug
What a fascinating biography of someone who has interested me for some years.

Effie Gray, who found that John Ruskin's ideas of a wife and marriage were not hers; nor would they have been most people's. The author does try to be fair to Ruskin, but his choice to not consummate the marriage, and his preference for his parents' company over his wife's certainly did not make him an ideal husband. Poor Effie who was so embarrassed by her continued virginal state that she couldn't even bring herself
Linda Lipko
Jan 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is an utterly fascinating book, not only regarding the sexless marriage of John Ruskin and Effie Gray, but most importantly the social roles of women in Victorian age.

John Ruskin wanted to marry the much younger Effie Gray. He toyed and played games regarding his commitment and possible love of Effie. Finally, he tried to put aside his penchant for little girls, but continued to allowed his parents to rule his life and marriage.

Ruskin was the foremost art critic of his time. Well admired an
Margo Lehman
Mar 22, 2020 rated it liked it
I read this book as part of an Artists in Fiction book club and perhaps this wasn't the best choice for such a club. This is definitely not fiction. The story itself is interesting and I do love art history, especially biographies about artists, if done well. I found myself frustrated that Fagence Cooper didn't even try to write this as a story in any kind of chronological order. I almost gave up on it when she gives away the ending in the introduction. Not everyone knows the story of Effie Gray ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it did not like it
I don't like the writing style for this book and I don't get it why Effie was popular? I mean, even before her marriage, Ruskin wasn't treat her as a proper young lady, he'd always thought of himself and his family, in some letters, he even called Effie, "My pet" which is rude for me even he might said it as a joke. Is it because of their unconsummated marriage? That doesn't seemed right either, why did he rejected her for some foolish reasons? And why people wanted to know about what they did i ...more
Feb 02, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent, historically correct account of the lives of three people so intrinsically linked to the new art movement in the 19th century.

It also reinforces the fact that the current theory of the "oppression of women in the Victorian age" is completely incorrect. There have been strong, intelligent and powerful women all throughout history, it wasn't something that happened suddenly in the 21st century. This type of delusion is what prevents me from identifying as a "feminist".

The P
Jun 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have known about the strange story of Effie Ruskin Millais, and I appreciated reading the details of Effie’s life from beginning to end.
Overall, a good read, but frustrating because there are no pictures!
The book alludes to Effie and her sisters acting as John Everett Millais muses, but I had to look up each work as it was mentioned. There’s a lot of discussion in the book about how Millais poured out his love for Effie onto his canvases as he fell more deeply in love with her. But, it was mad
Andrea Marshall
Jun 29, 2020 rated it liked it
Fascinating content, but even calling this “narrative fiction” is a stretch. Particularly in the latter half of the book the chapters are peppered with statements such as “He could not help thinking that it would be his turn next” (233) or “Effie [was] thinking about the days when she had been young” (198). If these were extrapolated from diaries or letters, why are they not cited? If they’re pure conjecture why can’t they read “He likely could not help thinking...” or “Effie may have been think ...more
Jane Matisse
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it
Despite my having trouble reading biographies of this length, this was a very interesting read. I appreciate the time and effort put in piecing together the life of Effie Grey and the two men in her life.

Very interesting to see the kinds of changes and scandal she made during her time, and it was just the beginning. I love reading stories about women who didn’t conform to society’s standards at all.

A very real, very sad, very powerful story pieced together by letters and journals and even paint
Ginna Kaiser
This was good at first, I then felt like it would never end.I felt like about 35% of the way in they should have put in what Everett & Effie's relationships was like, how their marriage & children fared, where they ended up, etc. & ended it about 5% later. There were way too many details & I am a details gal. Instead of describing photographs or paintings, couldn't the author have included them?

After around Chapter 8 I just got lost in the long-running details.
Debra Gaskill
Jan 12, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was fascinating! Art critic John Ruskin married Effie Gray, then for six years wouldn't (or couldn't?) consummate the marriage. Effie was eventually granted at annulment by the Church of England, but in an age where women couldn't divorce, largely, this one act had repercussions that followed her and family's life for years. ...more
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Couldn’t put this one down once I started it. So many of my “friends” were mentioned here...and I had no idea they had such Intimacies with Ruskin! I really enjoyed diving into some of the pairings of Millais as well as finding the geographical places included in the book.
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Dr. Suzanne Fagence Cooper was educated at Merton College, Oxford, Christie's Education and the Courtald Institute before becoming the Victoria & Albert Museum Research Fellow at Buckinghamshire New University in 1999. Her involvement with the V&A dates back to 1996, when she was appointed curator, and in 2001 she co-curated the V&A's major exhibition 'The Victorian Vision.'

Suzanne's published wor

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