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Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand

Mortal Love

by Elizabeth Hand

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Eh. It's got Pre-Raphaelites, Symbolists, faeries, outsider art, Tristan & Iseult, and rock in it. She twines three narrative threads together. The large story is about men's desire for women/women as objects of men's desire/subjects of their art. This is not a new story and so I don't find it that interesting. Much more interesting is the submerged bits of a woman artist, the treatment of her art, and the assertion that faeires don't make art, and the revelation that one did. *That's* much more interesting. I'm also familiar with only the Tristan/Isolde (MHG) variant, didn't get the references to the other T/I material, and didn't really find it integral as a trope. ( )
  AmyMacEvilly | Jan 27, 2017 |
I keep having this feeling that the *next* book I read by Elizabeth Hand will be one of my favorite books of all time. But she keeps not-quite-getting-there, for me.
I did really like this book, however - it may be her best yet. (And, can't beat the cover art! [a Rossetti painting]).
The plot is complex and twisting, encompassing times frames from the Victorian to today, all dealing with the intersection of Faerie and our world, all featuring a woman of Faerie, powerful, beautiful and compelling, artists' muse, lover, femme fatale, who inspires the men she touches to artistic genius, but leaves them mentally broken, obsessed, literally 'burned.' Here, transcendence is always touched by the impure... ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
This is one of those books that is REALLY hard to put into a category. Is it fantasy? Is it supernatural? Is it a psychological thriller? It has elements of all three and a touch of historical fiction, but it doesn’t dwell in any of these. Instead it dwells in mythic darkness, madness, sexual longing, dire warnings and artistic agony. But in a good way.

Early on I was put in mind of Iain Pears’s The Dream of Scipio because of the way Hand layers time and consistency with some elements such as the acorn motif and the color green. She also laces together multiple timelines replete with the fanciful and the mundane. Later in the book I was reminded of A Maggot by John Fowles and that was mostly because of what I’m going to call hallucinations on a page. Pieces of the story that leave the bounds of reality behind and make you go back over paragraphs and paragraphs looking for the point you missed; the disconnection.

The three main narratives are at first confusing, but there are many small details that pull them together; Val Comstock in the modern time is the descendent of Radborne Comstock in the past timeline. Radborne was a painter and did studies related to Tristram and Isolde which is the subject of Daniel Rowlands’s latest writing project. They are also bound to one another through their obsession with a mysterious woman; a muse with green eyes and an allure so powerful she has driven other men mad. One of them is confined to a mental hospital run by a Dr. Thomas Learmont. The hospital also confines one Evienne Upstone, a chestnut haired beauty with haunting green eyes. The very same woman who captivated Radborne’s attention on Blackfriar Bridge and who has been invading his psyche both awake and in dreams. So he paints, frenetically and eventually ends up on an island on the coast of Maine. It is to there that Russell Learmont, present-day captain of industry, sails to acquire the other half of a Radborne Comstock painting that he already owns.

There’s more, oh so much more, so many threads that you better take good notes or have a prodigious memory. Each revelation and insight is a joy that sizzles through your brain and once you start to see the whole, you’ll be staggered by its entirety. Imaginations like this don’t come along often and I’m grateful that Hand has one and can write like a dream as well. ( )
3 vote Bookmarque | Sep 10, 2015 |
There is a twinge of terror in the heart of any good fairy tale - a touch of awe, or a sense of how small we really are in the face of the unknown, tiny mortal creatures huddled together in the dark. Hand captures this feeling better than anyone, and it lends a delicious, haunting edge to this story about the pleasures and perils of courting the muse. ( )
1 vote paperloverevolution | Mar 30, 2013 |
A part of me would rather not talk about MORTAL LOVE.

The books I love the most sometimes render me incoherent. This incoherent state generally goes hand in hand with verbosity--I have tons to say, but I don’t know exactly how I want to say it.

This is sort of like that, but upside down. I loved MORTAL LOVE and am sure I could say tons about it in as incoherent a fashion as one might wish, but I rather want to keep it for me.

I’ve obviously chosen to ignore this impulse (spurred on, of course, but a The People Need To Know mentality), but I felt you should know where I stand.

Okay. Let’s get on with this.

Even though MORTAL LOVE came with a highly respected friend's seal of approval, I found the first chapter so confusing, and so devoid of a thread I could follow through to a satisfying story, that it looked like dark days ahead. I braced myself to abandon it by Chapter Three, after which point I would conveniently forget to mention I had ever tried to read it.

I was in love with it by page 20.

The People Magazine review excerpted on the cover calls MORTAL LOVE "a delightful waking dream;" as accurate a descriptor as I could hope for, with the caveat that the reviewer clearly shares my somewhat unconventional definition of "delightful." The novel is often dark, often wretched, often disturbing. Delightful if you’re up for that sort of thing; depressing if you’re not.

The waking dream bit, though, needs no qualifier. The story is dreamlike in the extreme, merging one scene with the next as smoothly as water flowing over polished stones. It provides few concrete answers, yet it’s never confusing or opaque. Hand spells little out, but the book’s structure encourages the reader to make every connection she needs. We know exactly what’s going on, despite the lack of overt confirmation.

MORTAL LOVE is a book about madness and art and intercourse between worlds (in all senses of the word). Like all the best dreams, it’s wild and dangerous and barely controlled, with a bizarre and vivid story at its heart.

It spans centuries, commenting on art and the soul and the very nature of creation.

It’s rich and strange; grounded and ethereal.

It reminded me of THE VINTNER’S LUCK, and of THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

It made me want to create.

It has me halfway convinced I should have asked more from it, but I’m not sure what else it could have given me without undermining itself.

It refuses to get out of my head.

I think you should read it, sooner rather than later.

(This review originally appeared on my blog, Stella Matutina.) ( )
3 vote xicanti | Mar 13, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060755342, Paperback)

In the Victorian Age, a mysterious and irresistible woman becomes entwined in the lives of several artists, both as a muse and as the object of all-consuming obsession. Radborne Comstock, one of the early twentieth century's most brilliant young painters, is helpless under her dangerous spell.

In modern-day London, journalist Daniel Rowlands meets a beguiling woman who holds the secret to invaluable -- and lost -- Pre-Raphaelite paintings, while wealthy dilettante-actor Valentine Comstock is consumed by enigmatic visions.

Swirling between eras and continents, Mortal Love is the intense tale of unforgettable characters caught in a whirlwind of art, love, and intrigue that will take your breath away.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:37 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In a tale that explores the link between creativity and madness, artist Radborne Comstock interacts with a captivating woman who both inspires him and becomes an object of obsession.

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