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Life Mask (2004)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0156032643, Paperback)One of the satisfactions of Emma Donoghue's masterful fourth novel, Life Mask, is the tension between the writer's contemporary interests, like lesbianism and the balance of power in marriage, and her 18th Century subject matter. Life Mask is a fictional recreation of a plausible (but unproven) love triangle between the comedic actress Eliza Farren, the sculptor Anne Damer (the niece of Horace Walpole, a fantastic minor character here), and Edward Smith-Stanley, the twelfth Earl of Derby, a Whig (liberal) politician who left his name to the horse race he founded. Like her bestseller Slammerkin, the novel spins an intricate story from the slightest of historical traces, in this case a single reference in the commonplace book of Hester (Thrale) Piozzi: a snarky four-line epigram that hints at the danger to Miss Farren's reputation in consorting with "one whose name approaches 'Damn Her.'"
Readers who stay with Donoghue through the crowded and confusing early chapters of Life Mask will find a skillful, partly sympathetic portrait of English aristocracy during and after the French Revolution, a trove of period detail, and a spellbinding tale of unlikely but enduring love. --Regina Marler
(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:22 -0400)
"Lord Derby, unhappily married and the inventor of the horse race that bears his name, is the steadfast suitor of England's leading comedy star, Eliza Farren. When the working-class actress begins a deep friendship with the aristocratic widow Anne Damer, a sculptor and rumoured Sapphist, the consequent scandal threatens to topple Eliza from her precarious position and destroy the lives of all three." "In an England overshadowed by the French Revolution, shaken by terrorism and a repressive government, Emma Donoghue leads her characters in an intricate minuet of public ambition and private passion." "In the Houses of Parliament, on the stage, in the bedroom, at the race track and in the intimate salons of the Beau Monde, Life Mask brings to life a world where political liaisons prove just as dangerous as erotic ones."--BOOK JACKET.
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