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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

on 1 October 2014
Most people when they think of the women associated with the great nineteenth century painter, Dante Gabriel Rossetti split into two camps - there are those who are enthusiastic supporters of his wife and first muse, the long suffering and ill-used Lizzie Siddal, and of course there are those who are fascinated by the strong, silent woman who dominated his later work, Jane Morris, the wife of his friend William Morris. In her earlier excellent book, Stunner, Walker made a case for a third usually forgotten muse, the earthy, commonplace Fanny Cornforth. In her latest work, A Curl of Copper and Pearl, the author reminds us that there were other women in the life of this larger than life artist by presenting in the form of a novel the last 20 or so years of Rossetti's life through the eyes of Alexa Wilding, now virtually forgotten, but who actually looks out at us from more Rossetti paintings than any of Rossetti's other models (including Siddal, Morris and Cornforth). Readers who are familiar with the author's blog, The Kissed Mouth, will be aware of the huge amount of research and scholarship which Walker undertakes and this is borne out in the many fascinating details which she has included in the novel, especially concerning Wilding's humble origins in the London meat trade, and the mystery of her birth and parentage. A fascinating and beautifully written account which I am sure will be enjoyed by all pre-raphaelite enthusiasts.
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on 4 July 2014
Based on a series of true events, A Curl of Copper and Pearl tells the story of Alexa Wilding, the celebrated flame-haired model of Dante Gabriel Rossetti who, along with the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite brotherhood of painters, took the art world by storm during the middle years of the 19th Century. Told in the first person, entirely from the perspective of Alexa herself it takes us from her humble beginnings to become one of the most admired faces in Victorian art. This isn’t just another rags-to-riches tale, however. It is also a series of sharp, cleverly delineated sketches in which Alexa is able to observe and convey to us many of the most infamous incidents that occurred within the Rossetti circle during its final turbulent years: romances and betrayals, infatuations and mysteries, exhumations and forgeries.

I enjoyed the obsessional Rossetti with his self-sacrifice to beauty; I loved the formidable Fanny Cornforth with the soft centre that she could never quite conceal; I enjoyed the descriptive details of dress and fabrics, buildings and furnishings, all contrasted with the background of deprivation in the backstreets of London; I even enjoyed the cads who pursued Alexa for her beauty, and the women who kept her dangerous attractions at arm’s length behind the barrier of class and social convention whenever her presence made them feel uncomfortable or threatened.

This is a refreshing and original approach to the subject which would appeal not only to those with some prior knowledge of the Pre-Raphaelites, but to the general reader also, due to its easy and intimate style. Above all, it is a tale of how beauty, whether on canvas or in the flesh, is so often tossed about, manipulated and raised to the heights by those who forget in the rush for exploitation the real origins of the commodity itself, the individual housed within. Here, we get to see beneath the surface - a story, therefore, as relevant today in our celebrity-obsessed world, as it was all those years ago amid the madly conflicting values of Victorian England.
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on 29 May 2014
Beautifully written, who could not love Alexa (Alice) and her relationship with Rossetti and the other Pre Raphaelites. The background is Victorian London,vividly brought to life. Like her biography of Fanny Cornforth the depth of research really shows and brings Alexa to life in a way all readers will enjoy.
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on 22 June 2014
Arrived very quickly and book lives up to expectations.Great way to learn about the Pre-Raphaelites and their ladies.
Thank you for such a great book.
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on 22 February 2015
Painfully little has been written about Alexa (originally named Alice). We know her primarily as the face of Venus Verticordia and Veronica Veronese. Or the face that replaced Fanny Cornforth’s in Lady Lilith. Kirsty Stonell Walker has filled the negative space that surrounds Alexa Wilding with a brilliantly crafted tale in her new novel A Curl of Copper and Pearl. We meet Alexa, as Rossetti did, on the streets. Through her eyes, we see Rossetti in his tumultuous later years. We also get a first-hand and scintillating look at Fanny Cornforth, George Boyce, Jane Morris, et al. It’s a compelling page-turner and you will love it.

It's so beautifully written. From the first sentence, Kirsty provides Alexa with a strong voice. We are swept into Rossetti's strange world right along with her and it's a maddening ride. Definitely 5 stars.
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on 19 August 2015
This is a stunner of a novel. The eye-catching, colourful cover showing Rossetti's Venus Verticordia gives an accurate and vivid impression of the story within. Kirsty Stonell Walker fictionalises the life of Alice Wilding, a poor seamstress whose beauty and mass of copper red hair lead to Rossetti approaching her to be come his model. Alice is a keen observer and a survivor. Walker uses Alice's story to explore the world of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, and the imbalance in the power play between the artists and their models and muses. A well-written, very well researched, page turner. Highly recommended. More please.
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on 8 April 2015
This book was an interesting mix of fact and fiction and this novel gave the reader a real insight into the historical period in which it was depicting., It was generally easy to read and the writer's style was lucid and fluent.
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on 25 July 2015
Brilliant book, couldn't put it down !!! A fascinating insight to the dramatic rise from poverty experienced by a Pre Raphaelite painter's muse.... from the gutter to celebrity. Would thoroughly recommend !!
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on 2 August 2016
If you want those Pre-Raphaelite characters to be brought alive in a whole new way, this is the book to read. George Boyce plays an important part, but the one who increasingly dominates, as no doubt he did at the time, is Dante Gabriel Rossetti - the charismatic one, and the romantic, poetic, aesthete par excellence. He was also the devoted, sometimes helpless, follower of the muse and here in Kirsty Stonell Walker's novel there are three of those. The three main ones in fact: Fanny Cornforth, Jane Morris, and at the centre of this tale and indeed told by her, Alice (Alexa) Wilding. These historical figures are woven into the narrative in such a way that their existence and their personalities feel as real as if we were observing them in the present. The secret must surely be that the writer is able to combine her narrative skills and imaginative flair with a consummate knowledge of Pre-Raphaelite art and its society. She has in fact already written the only biography that exists of Fanny Cornforth. I found this a superb read and felt that I was being given a unique chance to travel a while through the 1860s and in the company of those whom I could now experience in a fascinating new way.
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on 21 September 2015
Loved this book. Anything about the Pre-Raphaelites is a treat but it was great to see it from a different perspective.
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