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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Review - Effie A Victorian Scandal - Merryn Williams

I first saw this book on a blog which is on my reader and I can't for the life of me find this post. Thank you to whoever it is. I like memoirs, I like the Victorian period and fortunately my library was able to get it down for me from a sister library. I never thought it would be available here in Melbourne.

The book was slow moving and not something that could be read fast if you wanted to enjoy the book that is. Sometimes, this is a problem for me personally as I have huge TBR lists and I know that my time in Melbourne is limited and I must try to read all the recommendations as quickly as possible. Sometimes it is quite futile as I don't get all I want - Diary of a Provincial lady is one!

To get back to Effie - a quiet girl brought up in conventional, conservative style in Victorian society marries Ruskin an up and coming art critic. Upto now quite normal, quite alright. Fast forward six years - Ruskin and Effie have not consummated this marriage - this is Ruskin's choice, and he is also totally influenced by his parents and wants Effie to leave by whatever means possible and she institutes an action for divorce unheard in that time. One begins to realize at this stage of the story, that Effie despite her gentle upbringing has a streak of determination and in the face of much adversity, ribald remarks, and controversy goes ahead with this divorce.

A subsequent marriage to a painter Millais and eight children later the scandal of the divorce is never behind her - even after her death and the death of her husband.
Ruskin and Millais continue to remain very successful in their respective posts and flourish whereas Effie takes a complete step behind to live a very quiet life so as to avoid any further scandal. Seems typical of the times!!!

A note which was of interest to me was that the author seemed to think that George Eliot was influenced by the story of Effie & Ruskin when she wrote her masterpiece, Middlemarch.

The book was intriguing as it dealt not just with personal relationships and the manner in which it was expected to be conducted, but also the expectations of society at the time along with the courage of Effie who stood up for what she believed in and who also thought that at 26 life was not just over for her.

A book of 179 pages only it took me several days to get through. A very interesting read.


  1. this sounds like a very interesting and worthwhile book-especially for those interested in the Victorian novel

  2. It sounds like an interesting read as you say. I believe it is hard to live in a time like such where people are judged by the society. Have a lovely day, Kellie xx

  3. hmmm... interesting. as always, great review :)

    thanks for stopping by our IMM post and taking the time to comment. :)

  4. Interesting book. Great review!
    But oh men

  5. It does sound interesting, but I'm not sure the slow pace would work well for me.

  6. Despite its slow pace I would like to read this as I love the Pre-Raphaelites and wanted to know more about Effie. Thanks for the review!