05 March 2017

Blog Tour: Review and Q&A: Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett

When Mary Adams sees Millais’ depiction of the tragic Ophelia, a whole new world opens up for her.

Determined to find out more about the beautiful girl in the painting, she hears the story of Lizzie Siddal – a girl from a modest background, not unlike her own, who has found fame and fortune against the odds. Mary sets out to become a Pre-Raphaelite muse, too, and reinvents herself as Persephone Lavelle. But as she fights her way to become the new face of London’s glittering art scene, ‘Persephone’ ends up mingling with some of the city’s more nefarious types and is forced to make some impossible choices.

Will Persephone be forced to betray those she loves, and even the person she once was, if she is to achieve her dreams? 


Source: Review Consideration | Blog Tour | Purchase

5 Words: Art, family, class, adventure, secrets.

Ever since I first wandered around the Laing Art Gallery as a young teen and set eyes on Isabella and the Pot of Basil, I was in love with an art movement. Much like Mary when she first glimpses Millais' Ophelia, I couldn't stop staring at the Pre-Raphaelite painting in all of its Romantic glory. So when I heard about this book, I was insanely excited. And I had very high expectations.

The writing in this story is very colourful, focused on the imagery and the wider picture. Like a painting, the setting subtly reflects what is happening in the story.
Under the snowy peaks of each wave it was a thousand shades of green and grey.
I loved Mary. I loved her past and her present and her hopes for the future. I loved seeing her fight for everything, how large her heart was, how much she cared. She is truly a character to get invested in and when she took on the persona of Persephone, I was as carried away in her antics as she was, and every crash back to earth, to her real life, was with a heavy jolt.
She felt as if she was about to enter another time, another world. 
Then we have the glimpses of the Brotherhood themselves, those familiar names from history with their hedonistic ways and their constant search for the beauty in everything. I loved this peek we got at them, how immediately you could feel the hairs on the back of your neck raise with one interaction. If you know anything about the Brotherhood then you'll know they were very close and insular, in love with each other's muses, and they were right proper rebels against the art of the day.
They broke the rules of dress and decorum, and consorted with servant girls.
I loved the tiny details that brought the historical setting to life. London was never just noisy and busy and dirty, it was vibrantly described as the filthy, overly populated center that it was. The whole place was brought to life
There was no green at all in the view, Mary realised - only shades of grey.
This book is perfect for fans of YA and history and art. I think that Sophia Bennett's familiar tone means that this would be a fantastic start for fans of contemporary who are looking to try something new. The writing is beautiful and slightly decadent, rich with research and passion.

100% accurate picture of me reading Following Ophelia
OR the fickle Rossetti's Lady Lilith.
Five Quick Questions with Sophia Bennett

1. What inspired you to write Following Ophelia? 
The idea came from Katie Jennings, my editor at Stripes. She suggested the Pre-Raphaelite theme and I’d been wanting to write about art for ages, so it was the perfect opportunity. I love how passionate they were about their art, and how they became a community of friends and lovers. It creates lots of material to write about! Also, I love the intensity of colour in their paintings, and the sheer romance of some of them. 

2. What is your favourite Pre-Raphaelite painting?
Hard to say. However, Rossetti is my favourite Pre-Raphaelite artist, and Jane Morris is my favourite muse. He painted her as Proserpine, in a gorgeous blue-green velvet dress, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the painting when I saw it. My own version of it appears in Following Ophelia. 

3. If you could meet any one of the Brotherhood, which one would it be?
Rossetti would be the most shocking. Millais was actually quite staid. I would pick Burne-Jones, because my parents had a poster of his on their wall when I was growing up and his paintings were part of my visual landscape from the age of six. I’d want to hang out with him in Oxford, go for picnics, and see what inspired him. 

4. Do you have an interest in art/painting yourself?
Everyone in my family is a talented artist - except me. I based my first main character in Threads, Nonie Chatham, on myself and the fact that I love art but can’t draw. I write instead. However, I’m utterly fascinated by how people translate a 3D world onto a 2D page. I can’t wait to see the David Hockney exhibition at the Tate Britain (where there are also  a lot of Pre-Raphaelites). Hockney's whole career seems to have been an examination of that question. I’m a total art freak and always have been. 

5. What's in store for Mary/Persephone next?
At the end of book 1, Mary had the chance to escape to Venice. I lived there myself as part of my degree course and loved every moment, so Mary gets to explore it the way I did. Also, there’s my new, favourite villain. I’ve had huge fun inventing him! 


4 comments:

  1. I love this interview! You're spot on about how vivid the descriptions are in Finding Ophelia- the art is in every word, not just when Mary encounters it but threaded through everything. I'm stoked to see what Venice holds in store!

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  2. I have to read this now because of my recent art obsession. It sounds just too perfect!

    x Envy
    Lost in Translation

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  3. I have this on my kindle all ready and waiting for me! Must bump it up! Also fab interview! Thanks for linking up to the British Books Challenge x

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