Enchanting. Romantic. Lovely. Those words only begin to describe what a beautiful novel Ophelia’s Muse was. This told about Lizzie Siddal, a woman who posed for several renowned artists in the 1850s. Lizzie not only appeared as the woman in the book’s cover art, but also as the main figure in many more famous works. Although many authors have told the story of a naive woman becoming the muse and lover to an artist, this tale really stood out.
Lizzie’s red hair caught the eye of a young painter, and his offer to pay her to be his model elevated her from her position as a seamstress in a shop. Lizzie’s desire to mingle with a higher level of society and find a husband who wouldn’t look down on her family’s misfortune and their simple lives prompted her to accept the offer. I really began to like Lizzie once I realized that despite those dreams, she was not a social climber or a man hunter. Instead, her love affair with the painter Rosetti led her down a path of promises, lies, and heartbreak. The male artists Lizzie encountered were driven by lust and fame, but still harbored a deep need to contribute to the world through paints and canvases. Every character was motivated by such emotion that it was easy to become invested in them.
The most striking thing about Ophelia’s Muse was the language use by Rita Cameron to tell this romantic tale. Each sentence read like a line of poetry, and the words evoked detailed settings that enhanced the characters. After a few chapters, I realized I was reading more to continue experiencing the wonderfully full world Cameron imagined and less to see who would happen to Lizzie. Not the plot was dull, but this was not what I would call a plot driven novel. Instead, it was a romantic, sensual love story complimented with art that offered an insightful glimpse into the Pre-Raphael artist community. I kept googling the paintings discussed to get the full experience of Lizzie’s life as a model.
The events took place over several years, which allowed Lizzie to morph from an artist’s muse to an artist. This story was so creative and entertaining. This is a book I gushed over as I was reading. Lovers of literature, fine art, and poetry would absolutely love this book as much as I did.