Beauty in Thorns by Kate Forsyth – book review

As a long-time fan of Kate Forsyth, I was thrilled to received an ARC of her new novel, Beauty in Thorns. This passionate and compassionate re-imagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale is centred on the Pre-Raphaelite artists and poets in England, and sweeps readers up into their lives, loves, losses, desires and dreams.

This is how the blurb describes it:

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 – understood. She put aside her own dreams to support him, only to be confronted by many years of gossip and scandal.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti was smitten with his favourite model, Lizzie Siddal. She wanted to be an artist herself, but was seduced by the irresistible lure of laudanum. William Morris fell head-over-heels for a ‘stunner’ from the slums, Janey Burden. Discovered by Ned, married to William, she embarked on a passionate affair with Gabriel that led inexorably to tragedy.

Margot Burne-Jones had become her father’s muse. He painted her as Briar Rose, the focus of his most renowned series of paintings, based on the fairy-tale that haunted him all his life. Yet Margot longed to be awakened to love.

Bringing to life the dramatic true story of love, obsession and heartbreak that lies behind the Victorian era’s most famous paintings, Beauty in Thorns is the story of awakenings of all kinds.

Kate’s trademark voice shines through – her gift for conveying rich historical detail without losing pace is ever present. I found myself drawn into characters’ beings, feeling compassion for their choices and circumstances, and wishing I could stay with them a little longer at the end. The many moments of awakening scattered throughout are bittersweet, hopeful and heartbreaking by turn.

Beauty in Thorns is another gift of storytelling from Kate Forsyth that in me, awakened my love of fairy tale, history and art. (Penguin – $32.99. Read an extract HERE)

Monique Mulligan
For more of Monique Mulligan’s writing on books, check out Write Note Reviews

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