Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais

 Effie: The Passionate Lives of Effie Gray, John Ruskin and John Everett Millais

Suzanne Fagence-Cooper

St. Martin’s Griffin, May 8 2012, $15.99

ISBN: 9781250016256

 

In 1854, Effie Gray, abetted and encouraged by Lady Easterly, wife of the head of the Royal Academy, did the unthinkable though she knew her action will ostracize her; she filed for an annulment after six years of marriage to famous art critic John Ruskin on the grounds she remained a virgin.  Soon after obtaining the dissolution of her marriage, Effie married Ruskin’s student, pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais and along with her sister Sophy became his muse and mother of their eight children. 

 

Suzanne Fagence-Cooper provides an intriguing biography that combines knowledge obtained from family correspondence mostly written by the upper class heroine with the state of Victorian art and aristocratic history.  Though insightful, Ms. Cooper also fills in gaps with speculation.  Those that are based on the state of Victorian art and high society seem reasonable and enhance the bio especially the annulment events; on the other hand those that are psychological fillers like Sophy’s relationship with Millais and Ruskin’s rejection of his wife ask too much of the reader.  Still this is an enjoyable Victorian biography.

 

Harriet Klausner

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