I really enjoyed this book. Very well written, the plot pulls you in. The characters are vivid and interesting. Stayed up late because I could not put it down.
This was a fascinating read about a woman who defies the mores of her time. Donoghue's research is superb, and her ability to recreate the realities of this time is wonderful! While long, this book was completely engrossing with strong parallels to modern politics and society. A great read!
Life Mask is a biographical novel about Anne Damer, an 18th century sculptor and contemporary/friend of Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire, who has lately been the subject of a best-selling biography and movie. This historical era is extremely fascinating for many reasons - socially, culturally and historically, as it includes not only the American and French Revolutions (and several others throughout Europe), Royalty known for their foibles and illnesses (King George III suffered from dementia secondary to porphyria and often had to be tied to a pillar in the courtyard of one of his palaces) but also was a time when people, especially women of the upper classes, began questioning whether societal roles were as rigid as people had once believed.
Donoghue has written a masterly work, splendidly researched and well thought-out, about Damer, who not only challenged preconceptions about women with her work as a sculptor, but who also was well known as a lesbian and eventually ended living openly with her lover.
What I enjoy about the book is that is shows the difficulties encountered by someone who, over time, begins to realize that she IS different from others. Damer herself, according to Donoghue, lives in denial of her desires until rumor and social "excommunication" bring her to the realization that she is, indeed, a lesbian.
The book includes wonderful portrayals of Georgiana, Duchess. Donoghue seems to have an amazing ear for idiom as shown by the duchess' dialogue portraying the famous "Devonshire Drawl." Further, the hypocracy inherent in a society which not only allowed but encouraged promiscuity as long as it was discreet is made strikingly clear.
Yet, unlike many other genre works which come across as pendantic and self-righteous, Life Mask is written in a non-pretentious style. It is clear that Donoghue felt it more important to write an accurate portrayal of Damer than to "make a point" about lesbians and women artists.
Readers may find themselves searching the web for more information about Damer's sculpture and various portraits of Damer, Georgiana, the Duchess of Marlborough, etc.
A dense read with historical people at its center. One of the more interesting things I discovered was the alternate panic and elation that swept through England in response to France's bloody revolution. So much of what I read has focused on regency England and the war with Bonaparte, it was good to get a better understanding of what led up to it.
This book had all the right buzz about it, having been a best book on several reputable lists. It also had the right storyline for anyone interested in historical fiction. It's the tale of a dazzling stage actress of the late 1700's who captures an Earl's heart and waits 20 years for his estranged wife to die.....and the interwoven activities undertaken by those in the upper crust world to occupy themselves in passing the days. The author's intent must have been to tell a tale of extreme pretense and vapid behavior as a way to shine a spotlight on the era and its pastimes, which indeed she does....but perhaps too well. Too well, because the story itself succumbs to the very vapidness of the pastimes it relates. I just could not stay engaged in the comings and goings and extremely superficial world of doings that is the book's focus. The book would have related the tale in adequate fashion had the author kept the first several chapters and the last, and jettisoned all in between. I just could not help but be bored in reading about such, well....boring pastimes.
Life Mask is very well researched. Donoghue conjures the plot's time and space convincingly and compellingly.
Unfortunately, and so unlike Slammerkin, the pacing of this book plods on and on. The text is wordy and dialogue-heavy, and the majority of characters are interesting in theory, (an actress attempting to infiltrate a 'higher' level of social affiliation! The richest man in England! A high-society sculptress who may or may not be in love!) but not in practice. The main character seems to stop just short of compelling.
This is a book that has all the right pieces to be a great read, but somehow fails to gel cohesively.
Beautiful well written book. I was so enthralled I went online to learn about all the people I had read about in Life Mask.
The period with it's social tyranny and the dreams, ambitions and artistic, political and family interactions are flawlessly portrayed.
This lady can really write.