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Beauty in Thorns

I just finished reading historical fiction novel, Beauty in Thorns by Australian author Kate Forsyth. Beauty in Thorns was inspired by the Pre-Raphaelite movement during the mid-to-late 1800s. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was initially founded by the painters William Holman-Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti in the late 1840s. The movement expanded to later include socially conscious artists such as William Morris and Edward Burne-Jones , with Dante Gabriel Rossetti still acting as a unifying figure even after his death. The concepts utilized by the Pre-Raphaelites was to combine representations of medieval chivalry with religious and nature motifs thereby rebelling against mass-produced items where increasing mechanical technology of the Industrial Revolution was considered a social malaise. Beauty in Thorns focuses on the women involved in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, the wives, mistresses and relatives who were somewhat removed from the praise of the male pre-Raphaelites. Beauty in Thorns follows three prominent women of the pre-Raphaelite movement, where interconnected storylines of Elizabeth Siddle, Jane Morris and Georgina Burne-Jones are contrasted with the more historically famous lives of their male partners. The overarching scope of Beauty in Thorns captures the conception, development and final triumph of Edward Burne-Jones’ series of paintings ‘The Legend of Briar Rose’ inspired by the Grimm tales of ‘The Sleeping Beauty’. The grand sweep of the saga details the interconnected lives of Gergiana Burne-Jones and her enduring love and acceptance of the sacrifices made for her husband’s art to flourish. The contrasting figure of Elizabeth Siddle who struggled to be recognized on the same level as male artists and like her own lover and eventual husband, Dante Gabriel-Rossetti. The final story follows Jane Morris who married the wealthy artist and socially conscious William Morris but who through societal prominence was granted more liberty than either Georgina Burne-Jones or Elizabeth Siddle, even when she remained married to William Morris but was the mistress to Dante Gabriel-Rossetti.
Beauty in Thorns had complex intersecting storylines that linked Elizabeth Siddle, Jane Morris and Georgiana Burne-Jones, where the common struggle of social oppression was reflected differently depending on social class. It was such a pleasure to read Beauty in Thorns. I definitely recommend it!