Thursday, 29 December 2011

Book review: Lizzie Siddal

By Lucinda Hawksley
Published by
Andre Deutsch Ltd

It was the year 1996. I was in London for the first time when I saw her at the Tate Britain. For some time I would simply think of her as the model for John Everett Millais’s haunting Ophelia. But she had a name, that peculiarly beautiful woman: Elizabeth Siddall or, as she was later known, Lizzie Siddal.

In Lizzie Siddal: The Tragedy of a Pre-Raphaelite Supermodel, British biographer and author Lucinda Hawksley uses her talent as a writer to bring Lizzie to life and narrate her fascinating ascent to fame. To do so, she combines her storytelling skills with the words of the people who knew her. It’s not just a woman, who arises from the page, it’s the whole Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the people who followed and were connected to the artists of the group.

Similar to
Mary Benson’s biography, which I read earlier on this year, this work of non-fiction reads like a novel and keeps you hooked from start to finish. Friendship, love, betrayal, obsession, success, addiction… In the nineteenth-century, Lizzie’s brief life certainly had all the ingredients of a modern best-seller.

Enriched by photos, reproductions of paintings, extracts from letters and poems, Lucinda Hawksley’s book will be appreciated both by art lovers and anybody who enjoys reading about strong women and their extraordinary lives.