Book Review - Beauty in Thorns

July 21, 2017

Between the ages of 16 and 23 I had a major crush on the Pre-Raphaelite painters. In retrospect it was probably the dresses, mixing the romantic era and medieval styles, and fantastical settings that really drew me to their work. Even when I was a teenager, the art world's establishment didn't really consider the Pre-raphs art as proper art; too beautiful & romantic!


So it is interesting to note that in the day of the PRB (Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood) own time the PRB were considered revolutionary because what they were doing was new and different. In their own way and in their own time they trying to change the world.


I have waited for Kate Forsyth's most recent book 'Beauty in Thorns' with more anticipation than usual. 

A new book by a favourite author!

A book that told a story about the PRB! 

and had a Sleeping Beauty theme as well!

The Legend of Briar Rose by Edward Coley Burne Jones



Kate reimagines the brotherhood of painters within 'Beauty in Thorns' but like many of her books it is her stories of the women involved that are the focus of the tale. Told with a modern, feminine and feminist sensibility, the muses, wives, friends, lovers and fellow artists of the PRB are given a voice. 


Ophelia by John Everett Millais, 1851-1852


It is in chapter 2 'Pretending to be Drowning' that the author recreates the scene of a poor artist's model lying in a cold bath tub of water. She doesn't dare move in case she interrupts the artist and perhaps, as a consequence, risks the income that helps supports her family who live in the slums of Southwark. That young woman is Lizze Siddal who posed for the painting Ophelia. The impractical artist is John Everett Millais. In Kate Forsyth's reimagining she shows us in detail the limited choices those young women had.


Beauty in Thorns is a fascinating read of art, fairy tale and human relationships. Thank you Kate!































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