First Lines: I never set out to pose nude. I didn’t, honestly.
I found this book only a couple of months ago as I scoured the internet for new releases for 2014. I adore historical fictions, so it was a no-brainer for me to add this to my to-read list.
London, 1909. A place where social class means everything, money equals power, and women are nothing more than sensitive adult-children. Enter Vicky, who just wants to be an artist. After posing nude in one of her art classes, she’s forced home amid scandal and shame. Her parents try to cover the scandal quickly by announcing her engagement to Edmund Carrick-Humphreys, a young man from a rich family that is willing to overlook Vicky’s scandal. But Vicky has her own plans in mind. She’s applied at the Royal College of Art to be a real artist. Caught up in the suffragette movement and a working-class boy who is her muse and maybe her true love, life quickly begins spiraling out of Vicky’s control. As a debutante in high society, how much is Vicky willing to give up to follow her dreams?
In no fault of the book, I found the first half or so of the book a little slow. That’s mostly because, apparently, even as a teacher, there are some days so slow and boring that you can actually read nearly 200 pages in one school day. That was incredible, but I eventually got tired of sitting in uncomfortable chairs and reading. So I’m definitely not holding this against the book. Just worth mentioning.
I quickly came to love Vicky’s spirit. She’s got a lot of fire in her. Her passion is easily art and drawing. That comes through in every chapter as Vicky fights for it. I really liked seeing a main character who was so passionate about something like that and was willing to admit that she still needed to learn a lot about it.
It was easily evident that a lot of research went into writing this book. It felt fantastically real, whether it was fashion, the suffrage movement, real historical figures, high society, or slang. All of it was there and there’s a great author’s note at the end to give you more information on all of these topics (except slang). I really liked that it was so well-researched because it gives the story a more authentic tone. The research came up all the time. London, 1909, wasn’t just the setting. It bled into every facet of the story.
There are a lot of great themes about this story that I could go into. Obviously, the theme of following your heart is huge. But there was also this slow, curling theme of what it means to be a girl/woman. The suffragettes were a great backdrop for that because they believed very differently (for the time) what it meant to be a woman and what rights women should have. I found myself feeling very offended by the way some of the characters treated women. (In the author’s note, you learn that many of those things are completely historically accurate, and it’s horrifying.)
The characters, I thought, were all fantastic. From Vicky to her family, the suffragettes to the boring high society girls Vicky has to deal with, all the characters were well-fleshed out and interesting. Between the characters and the plot, I couldn’t lose with this book.
Overall, I thought it was a great historical fiction. I really loved it, and I’m sure the story will stick with me for quite some time.