Donoghue, who is also a playwright and historian, has alighted on another terrific story, and she pulls off a dazzling feat of choreography in setting it all in motion. She takes obvious delight in the sumptuous details of dress and comportment, the subtle inflections in conversation and the slow blooming of erotic tension. As Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire would say, "It was all simply ravish."
The Washington Post
Few sexual liaisons among the gentry went unnoticed in 18th-century beau monde England-the gossip papers of the era make our own tabloid culture look respectful-and though fleeting same-sex affairs were somewhat fashionable, suspected homosexuals were condemned to public humiliation and criminal punishment. Offering a fictionalized account of real-life scandal, Donoghue (Slammerkin) tells the story of three minor historical personages: the actress Eliza Farren, the Earl of Derby and the widowed sculptress Anne Damer. Famously ugly Lord Derby has been pursuing chaste young Eliza for years, hoping to marry her when his estranged, invalid wife dies. In the meantime, Eliza meets Derby's friend Anne and the two strike up a close, platonic friendship. Though she denies them vehemently, rumors of Sapphism haunt Anne Damer and endanger the reputations of everyone around her. Spanning the decade from 1787 to 1797, the novel follows this cast of characters through their complicated romantic and political entanglements. All the while, the French Revolution rages, causing major upheaval among the British nobility. Even as Derby and Anne befriend common folk like Eliza and support the liberal Whig party, hoping to topple mad King George, the mounting wave of European democracy threatens to extinguish their life of indolent leisure. Donoghue, who has written a historical examination of 18th-century British lesbian culture, Passions Between Women, has an extraordinary talent for turning exhaustive research into plausible characters and narratives; she presents a vibrant world seething with repressed feeling and class tensions. Agent, Kathleen Anderson at Anderson Grinberg. 8-city author tour. (Sept. 4) Forecast: The sensational thrills of bestselling Slammerkin aren't on offer here-there are many more earnest conversations than sex scenes-but readers who appreciated Slammerkin's emotional and historical depths will enjoy Donoghue's latest. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Donoghue's (Slammerkin) latest historical novel is a fictionalized account of the 16-year courtship of Lord Edward Derby, the richest and ugliest man in the House of Lords, and England's queen of comedy, Eliza Farren. Set against the tumultuous backdrop of the French Revolution and the chaotic reign of Britain's George III, the novel plots in excruciating detail not only Derby and Eliza's lives but also that of noted sculptor Anne Damer. Derby introduces Eliza to London's upper-crust society, a group so self-centered that they refer to themselves as "the World." She befriends Anne, and the two become close until rumors arise that Anne is a lesbian. Although Eliza does not believe the story, she coldly drops Anne's friendship. After a year, the two reconcile, only to have the rumor arise again, at which time Derby insists that Eliza break off the friendship forever to save her own reputation. Despite a rich portrayal of 18th-century genteel society, Donoghue's bulky account of this relatively tame scandal, by historical and modern standards, is unfortunately dull. For large libraries only. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/04.] Karen T. Bilton, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
PRAISE FOR LIFE MASK
"Mesmerizing. With the French Revolution raging in the background, Donoghue has lighted on another terrific story, and she pulls off a dazzling feat of choreography."Julia Livshin, The Washington Post Book World
"Few will be able to put it down before its enthralling tales end."Chicago Tribune