Light, Descending

Light, Descending

by Octavia Randolph


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Light, Descending by Octavia Randolph

A Tale of Art and Obsession

Brilliant illuminator of artistic truths. Failed lover. Provocative critic of social injustice. Raving lunatic. John Ruskin was all these things.

Light, Descending brings to life Victorian art and social critic John Ruskin (1819-1900), a passionate and tormented genius whose career as art critic, social reformer, and benefactor and nemesis to some of the greatest names of 19th century art ended in near-universal public acclaim - and madness.

Octavia Randolph, author of the best-selling The Circle of Ceridwen Saga, portrays Ruskin's artistic genius, political struggles, and frustrated private passions in a vivid and haunting recounting of the great man's life. From his life-long defence of the painter JMW Turner, to Ruskin's unconsummated marriage to Effie Gray, to his patronage of artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his fiancée, Lizzie Siddal, and Lizzie's death by self-administered drug overdose; to Ruskin's love affair with the teenaged Rose LaTouche, and her early death, which broke Ruskin's mind; and the infamous libel trial brought against Ruskin by James McNeill Whistler, Light, Descending sweeps the reader from bustling London to a decaying Venice to wild Alpine heights as it chronicles Ruskin's ecstatic triumphs and blighted happiness.

Based on letters, diary entries, and Ruskin's own voluminous published writings, and peopled with some of the most compelling personalities of the 19th century, Light, Descending is a tour-de-force novel about the man Mohandas Gandhi said "made me transform my life."

Includes Book Group Discussion Guide.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781942044017
Publisher: Exemplar Editions
Publication date: 11/28/2014
Pages: 354
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.79(d)

About the Author

I write the kind of book I want to read myself. I write about history as a way to better understand my own times. I write about people who are far better, and (I hope) far worse than myself. And beautiful objects inspire me: the hand-carved combs, skilfully wrought swords, and gemmed goblets of the world of The Circle of Ceridwen Saga. Almost everything interests me; I've studied Anglo-Saxon and Norse runes, and learnt to spin with a drop spindle. My path has led to extensive on-site research in England, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, and Gotland - some of the most wonderful places on Earth. My other works include the novella The Tale of Melkorka, based on a story from the Icelandic Sagas, and Ride:A Novella, a retelling of the story of Lady Godiva, first published in Narrative Magazine. I've been the fortunate recipient of fellowships at the MacDowell Colony, Ledig House International, and Byrdcliffe.
Hearing from readers is a special pleasure and I always answer my letters. So write to me! is my website.

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Light, Descending 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Let me begin by saying I read Octavia Randolph’s work for her beautiful writing and interesting turn of phrase, as well as her diligent research, but in this case not necessarily for the subject matter. I knew Light, Descending would be beautifully written, but I have to admit I was not looking forward to spending time with John Ruskin. While his work is important his is a difficult story, and I wasn’t sure I would be sympathetic, even though I admire his art criticisms, his strong convictions, and his prescient fears about the world’s aggressive march toward the industrial revolution. I had no reason to fear; Ms. Randolph wrote Ruskin as a sympathetic character, something I was not sure was possible if the story was told factually. Light, Descending is categorized as historical fiction but it is a work of art, literature that reads like a wonderful novel, with a storyline that propelled me along even though I knew what was coming. And the highs and lows of the story were not spoiled for the knowing; I experienced them as if I had no insight into Ruskin’s troubled life.  Randolph immersed me in the 19th century. Her descriptions of historical figures such as JMW Turner, James McNeil Whistler, and Rose LaTouche, of the architecture, as well as her use of the language (and spelling) of the time transported me there. The license she took with her characters innermost thoughts are believable, and her prose always compelling. I was pleased with the list of paintings by chapter at the close of the book; those who need a visual reference can easily find one, and her book club questions are thought provoking as well. I most fervently recommend Light, Descending be added to your must read list.