ISBN : 9780151009435
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The bestselling author of Slammerkin turns her attention to the Beau Monde of late eighteenth-century England, turning the private drama of three celebrated Londoners into a robust, full-bodied portrait of a world, and lives, on the brink of revolution. The Honourable Mrs. Damer is a young widow of eccentric tastes, the only female sculptor of her time. The Earl of Derby, inventor of the horse race that bears his name, is the richest man in the House of Lords-and the ugliest. Miss Eliza Farren, born a nobody, now reigns as Queen of Comedy at Drury Lane Theatre.In a time of looming war and terrorism, of glittering spectacle and financial disasters, the wealthy liberals of the Whig Party work to topple a tyrannical prime minister and a lunatic king. Their marriages and friendships stretch or break; political liaisons prove as dangerous as erotic ones. Will Eliza Farren ever gain entry to that elite circle that calls itself the World? Can Lord Derby's pride endure public mockery of his long, unconsummated courtship of the actress? And how is Anne Damer ever to silence the whispers of Sapphism that haunt her? Let the games begin...Amazon.com ReviewOne of the satisfactions of Emma Donoghue's masterful fourth novel,Life Mask, is the tension between the writer's contemporary interests, like lesbianism and the balance of power in marriage, and her 18th Century subject matter.Life Mask is a fictional recreation of a plausible (but unproven) love triangle between the comedic actress Eliza Farren, the sculptor Anne Damer (the niece of Horace Walpole, a fantastic minor character here), and Edward Smith-Stanley, the twelfth Earl of Derby, a Whig (liberal) politician who left his name to the horse race he founded. Like her bestsellerSlammerkin, the novel spins an intricate story from the slightest of historical traces, in this case a single reference in the commonplace book of Hester (Thrale) Piozzi: a snarky four-line epigram that hints at the danger to Miss Farren's reputation in consorting with "one whose name approaches 'Damn Her.'" Readers who stay with Donoghue through the crowded and confusing early chapters of Life Mask will find a skillful, partly sympathetic portrait of English aristocracy during and after the French Revolution, a trove of period detail, and a spellbinding tale of unlikely but enduring love. --Regina MarlerFrom Publishers WeeklyFew 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
Specification of Life Mask
|Publisher||Houghton Mifflin Harcourt|
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