Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett
Release Date: March 9th 2017
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
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Following Ophelia intrigued me enough to want to request it for review, however I wasn’t sure how I would go considering I know next to nothing about art in general, let alone anything about the Pre Raphaelite brotherhood. Thankfully, for fellow readers like myself, Following Ophelia is not only fascinating, but very well written and I didn’t find it confusing in the slightest!
This book explores the life of Mary Adams who moves to London to become a maid and to follow her cousin Harriet’s footsteps. Mary soon realises that she isn’t a very good maid and hates her job, but thankfully, she ends up stumbling into the London art scene by reinventing herself as Persephone Lavelle and she becomes an artist’s muse after being inspired by Lizzie Siddal.
From the very beginning, you start to fall in love with Mary as a character. She’s young, a little naive, and just absolutely in love with the world. Once moving in with the family who hired her, she finds her world expanding beyond the small village she grew up in with her abusive father and siblings. While not exactly a fan of being a maid (who could really say they would be though tbh), she becomes a “new” woman, Persephone, and ends up going to parties, meeting new people and going new places around London. Despite becoming Persephone and being exposed to more of the world, Mary never loses her charm or her kindness and while she learns more about herself, she doesn’t lose other parts of herself either, which is quite frankly, one of my favourite things about her character. I also loved how much she questioned the patriarchal society and how frustrated it made her. The arrogance of the men surrounding her frustrated ME although I know and understand that’s just how it was back in the 1800’s.
While you don’t see a lot of it, the relationship between Mary and her cousin Harriet is one of my favourite things about this book and I also really love the growth of the relationship between Mary and the other maid, Annie. I won’t go into too much detail into the relationships between them as I really think it’s something you should read yourself if you end up picking up this book!
The romantic relationship between Mary and Felix on the other hand, was something I could totally get on board with, but struggled to *really* get behind. I just wish we had seen more of the two interacting beyond stolen glances and Felix painting as Mary modelled. We know they kiss lots, but we don’t often see many of the pair’s interactions as they happen, rather we hear about them from Mary’s perspective after the fact (this might really appeal to some readers though!).
The world was portrayed beautifully, and this is really a product of excellent writing. Sophia Bennett describes each location with enough imagery, but not in *too* much unnecessary detail! The art is described so vividly and beautifully, I ended up intrigued enough several times while reading, to look up each of the art pieces mentioned just so I could learn more about them and see what they actually look like!
The plot itself was much better than I anticipated (admittedly, I wasn’t sure what to expect given the synopsis), it’s very much character driven, however with the well developed characters and relationship growth between so many of the characters, Bennett delivers a compelling plot which had me feeling an array of emotions.
Overall, Following Ophelia was an excellent and surprising novel with an unexpected plot twist! The characters were easy to love (even the ones you disliked!) and the way Sophia Bennett writes both her world and her characters is wonderful, fun and incredibly vivid. If you like historical fiction and don’t mind character driven novels, I definitely recommend Following Ophelia!
(I also just discovered the sequel comes out really soon and I’m SO HAPPY I don’t have to wait too long!)
Thankyou Hardie Grant Egmont for sending me this book to review, this in no way affected my review or rating