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on 17 February 2006
Having a great interest in the world of the Pre-Raphaelites already, I thought at best it would be an interesting read - but it is such a well researched and absorbing book I could not put it down. Lizzie is seen here as human, her life the tragedy of it, and the fact that Rossetti did not cause all of her problems. However I could not leave the book with a dislike of her sometimes manipulative nature. Such is the success of this book. You will not be disappointed if you read it.
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on 21 May 2017
Most interesting book of the life of Rosetti's muse. She eventually was his wife. A tragic life she had. It was well written and you had insight into lives of the other pre raphaelites as well.
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on 25 July 2005
This is an absorbing book. I had heard of Lizzie Siddal, and I like the Pre-Raphaelite painting style but I have no specialist knowledge of art history or nineteenth-century society. I decided to read this on the basis of good reviews and an interest in the lives of women at the time. It didn't disappoint. Like the other reviwer, I read it in a single sitting. Although the writing isn't faultless it is easy to read and to follow, and the author's good use of sources ensures that the context of 19th Century London and the cast of well-known characters (including William Morris, Ford Madox Brown and Christina Rosetti) come vividly to life. Most engaging of all is the central character of Lizzie herself. She appears as a flawed, needy and highly sensitive being, pushed into hysteria and manipulation by the reticence of her partner, Dante Gabriel Rosetti. As the story emerges, it is clear that the relationship between them and its tragic consequences could just as easily unfold in modern society as in 1850s and 1860s London. The sensitive young woman craving love and emotional security (despite her independent income)and the commitment-phobic, egocentric bachelor who wants to have his cake and eat it, are, unfortunately, thoroughly recognisable, modern characters.
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on 28 September 2004
I read this book in one weekend - it was enthralling and covered not just Lizzie but the Pre-Raphaelite circle during her life. Given the (little) amount of details available on the aspects of Lizzie's life the author has created a well written insight into her personality and work. The author explores her relationship with Rossetti and although details both their faults does have a judgemental tone. It would have been interesting to have more detail on what happened to the rest of her circle after her death - though that is probably another book in itself..
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on 25 May 2010
I picked this up in the gift shop at Brantwood, John Ruskin's house in the Lake District, and looked forward to reading a biography of the female artist he patronised. I came away from the book feeling as if I had a superficial understanding of Lizzie Siddal, but knew very little fact. The book is full of summaries of letters about Lizzie, including the author's opinions about what was meant by the letter-writer, but fewer excerpts to let a reader determine for herself. I read often that Lizzie could be haughty and cold, but this was never supported with any evidence or examples of when this behaviour began, just references to other people's reactions. The author makes a great leap of logic early on, saying that Rosetti persuaded Lizzie's family to drop the second 'l' from their surname only for her father to reconsider and to restore it, all on the basis that the spelling of the name changes from Siddall to Siddal and back to Siddall on the 1841, 1851 and 1861 censuses respectively: anyone who has done even the slightest bit of research using a census will know that the enumerator's phonetic spelling has nothing to do with how the family spelt their name. I felt that the book was more opinion than fact, especially from the amount of supposition: "Lizzie must have felt..." "It's possible that..." throuhgout. There are some interesting anecdotes about Lizzie's painting and the inclusion of her poetry is welcome, but I still feel as if I have very little knowledge of Lizzie's life.
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on 17 June 2007
The subject of the mysterious Elizabeth Siddal is always interesting but I found this book rather lightweight. The background information placing Siddal in her contemporary context (eg. the life of milliners in the 19th century) is perhaps the best thing about it. A lot of it seems to be based on speculation. For a more comprehensive book on the same subject I would recommend Jan Marsh's biography 'The Legend of Elizabeth Siddal'.
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on 3 January 2008
This is a seriously wonderful book.

Charting the short, tragic life of Lizzie Siddal from youth to death and all the bits in between, this book is an absolute joy to read.

Impeccably researched and wonderfully written, it had me crying buckets at the end, but also taught me things I didn't know about her life and death, her relationships and what must have been an emotionally devastating love affair and marriage with the artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

If you are a student of Victoriana, have an interest in the Pre-Raphaelite world, or just enjoy an excellent biography, then this is most definitely the book for you. It's absolutely worth every penny I paid and I will be reading it again - just as soon as it's done the rounds of all my friends that want to read it!
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on 13 January 2011
If you like a romantic tragedy, this is the book for you, as it reads like a novel, which makes it very easy and enjoyable to read.
As you learn about Lizzie's sad life and her often manipulative ways, you also learn a lot about Dante Gabrielle Rossetti who features very heavily as he was her main interest throughout most of her adult life. You will see how the two couldn't seem to be without each other but also couldn't seem to really make each other happy, ending eventually in tragedy. Throughout the book you also learn about other members of the PRB and how their lives intertwined and about their need to take their art further. This book leaves me wondering whether I would have actually liked Lizzie or just felt sorry for her, but certainly I have enjoyed learning about her.
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on 11 March 2012
Lizzie Sidal was the model for John Everett Millais' 'Orphelia' and her striking looks were immortalised in many other PRB paintings by several different artists. She was discovered working in a fashionable milliners shop at a time when working as an artist's model was a dubious pursuit for a young lady. As well as posing for all of the prime movers in the Brotherhood she also wrote and painted in her own right.

The book is essentially the story of Lizzie's relationship with Dante Gabrielle Rossetti who worshipped her as a muse while 'stringing her along' as regards to marriage. He seemed content to keep her as a girlfriend in an age when marriage was everything for a woman and life expectancy much shorter than today. Rossetti's motives for delaying marriage appear to have been complex but chief among them seems to have been fear of parental disapproval of the match. Also, Lizzie was not the only woman in his life; a further complicating factor. Lucinda Hawksley is an excellent guide throughout and she chronicles Lizzie Sidal's mental and physical decline through a combination of emotional neglect, miscarriage, eating disorders and perhaps most significantly of all, Laudanum addiction.

This was an excellent (although terribly sad) book about the real woman behind some of the nineteenth century's most famous paintings. Being feted as a muse appears to come at a high price and I'd recommend the book to anyone interested in the life of one of the genuine icons of the Victorian age.
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on 3 November 2004
I couldn't put this book down. I usually find historical books tedious, not this one; this one appears aimed at everyone, not just the 'art history world'. The descriptions really painted pictures of the people and the artwork featured, I now want to see more of these for myself. I feel I have learnt much, whilst enjoying a wonderful biography.
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