Synopses & Reviews
Effie Gray, a beautiful and intelligent young socialite, rattled the foundations of Englands Victorian age. Married at nineteen to John Ruskin, the leading art critic of the time, she found herself trapped in a loveless, unconsummated union after Ruskin rejected her on their wedding night. On a trip to Scotland she met John Everett Millais, Ruskins protégé, and fell passionately in love with him. In a daring act, Effie left Ruskin, had their marriage annulled and entered into a long, happy marriage with Millais. Suzanne Fagence Cooper has gained exclusive access to Effies previously unseen letters and diaries to tell the complete story of this scandalous love triangle. In Coopers hands, this passionate love story also becomes an important new look at the work of both Ruskin and Millais with Effie emerging as a key figure in their artistic development. Effie
is a heartbreakingly beautiful book about three lives passionately entwined with some of the greatest paintings of the pre-Raphaelite period.
"In 1854, six years after marrying the famed art critic Ruskin, Scottish-born Effie Gray was still a virgin and the 25-year-old braved gossip and social ostracism by procuring an annulment. She later married Ruskin's protÃ©gÃ©, the pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais. Effie inspired other unhappily married women while mesmerizing art followers as a muse and model in Millais's popular paintings. But her early traumas left their mark on her distant relationship with her own daughters. Despite Cooper's access to substantial family records, which allow her to offer detailed recreations of Effie's fraught upper-class family life, the author admits to gaps in our knowledge of Effie's life, which she fills in by speculating, for instance, that Ruskin's physical disgust with Effie was due to her menstruating on their wedding night. Overall, Cooper illuminates an atmosphere of passionate artistic innovation and literary appreciation, and a high-profile romantic triangle offers an intriguing look into the peculiar interaction between Effie's two husbands in the name of art, and a young woman's remarkable refusal to bow to relentless class and marital subjugation. 8 pages of color photos, 8 pages of b&w photos. (June)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Suzanne Fagence Cooper's meticulously researched and yet touchingly personal memoir of Effie Gray is a joy to read. We know so much about Ruskin and Millais - so little about the most influential woman in their lives. Miserably married to the first and triumphantly to the second, Effie's story is emblematic of the struggle of Victorian women who had to survive without the outlets, opportunities or rights that were afforded to men. Her trail-blazing life makes a wonderful, rich book.” -- Emma Thompson
“At last Effie Millais has been given her voice and it is marvelous one. Effie emerges as a courageous, intelligent, resourceful, woman who refused to go quietly. In unsettling Victorian society, she left the door ajar for generations of women. Suzanne Fagence Cooper elegantly brings to life the glittering world of Victorian art and the socially complicated one of a woman who wed the two cultural giants of the age and not only survived, but thrived! Effies story is a haunting one. I couldnt put it down.”--Linda Lear, author of Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature and Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature"A refreshing re-examination of interesting questions about art, nature and life beyond the bounds of Victoria's England."--Kirkus
"...a lively and highly readable triple biography of these figures, the first one to focus on the woman at the center of this triangle."--The Washington Independent Review of Books
“Effie Grays story is extraordinary and Cooper feasts upon it with appetite…I cannot recommend Suzanne Fagence Coopers biography of Effie Gray more highly to anyone with a heart, a liking for a good read and an interest in things Victorian.”--Henrietta Garnett, The Literary Review
About the Author
SUZANNE FAGENCE COOPER is a research fellow and curator at the Victoria & Albert Museum. She has also worked as a consultant for the BBC. Suzanne lives in London and York.