My review will follow the publisher’s blurb.
Called the most promising artist of his generation, handsome, modest, and affectionate, Richard Dadd rubbed shoulders with the great luminaries of the Victorian Age. He grew up along the Medway with Charles Dickens and studied at the Royal Academy Schools under the brilliant and eccentric J.M.W. Turner.
Based on Dadd’s tragic true story, Mad Richard follows the young artist as he develops his craft, contemplates the nature of art and fame — as he watches Dickens navigate those tricky waters — and ultimately finds himself imprisoned in Bedlam for murder, committed as criminally insane.
In 1853, Charlotte Brontë — about to publish her third novel, suffering from unrequited love, and herself wrestling with questions about art and artists, class, obsession and romance — visits Richard at Bedlam and finds an unexpected kinship in his feverish mind and his haunting work.
Masterfully slipping through time and memory, Mad Richard maps the artistic temperaments of Charlotte and Richard, weaving their divergent lives together with their shared fears and follies, dreams, and crushing illusions.
Another read to challenge myself. It was worth it.
This is not only the story of Richard Dadd but also of Charlotte Brontë and Charles Dickens. I knew relatively little of Bronte and Dickens and absolutely nothing about Dadd. I was like a fresh canvas ready to absorb all there was to learn.
Lesley Krueger made me look up a fair amount of words while reading her novel, for this I thank you ! I’ve added chiaroscuro and pusillanimous to my ever growing list of new and unusual to me words. She really does have a sophisticated writing style. It’s remarkable how through some research and oral history Lesley Krueger was able to piece together this story. I can’t imagine all the time it must have taken to research this novel !
The story is told two fold; one is that of Charlotte Brontë, the other is that of Richard Dadd. As I was reading; chapter after chapter – I really didn’t know how all three would connect. I still don’t really fully understand what held these three together. I think that was the major issue I had after finishing the novel. Perhaps what bonded this trio was their dreams, their art or the hold their fathers had on them? … For the life of me, I can’t put my finger on it.
“I’ve often wondered where talent comes from. I believe what you say. I believe that each artist is a divided soul” Bronte in conversation with Dadd in the beginning of the novel
Because I did a little sleuthing on google, I knew how things would end for Richard Dadd but that didn’t take away anything while I was reading it. The part in the novel while he was on tour dragged on a bit for me. In all honesty, I was more interested in the Charlotte Brontë bits within the novel than those of Richard Dadd.
Myself an aritist, I understood Dadd’s struggle to paint what he wanted vs what his clients found fashionable for the time.
“They want paintings by the inch, preferably with naked women in classical poses they can plausibly call art.” Richard Dadd
There is an immense satisfaction getting through something you are challenging yourself with though. It seems that I am doing a lot of that lately. As I was reading Mad Richard, I’d often find myself on google reading about Dadd and Bronte. I’ll admit to not being much of a classic’s reader and I’ve promised myself that I will read a Bronte novel soon. Any recommendations?
Lesley Krueger had not only increased my vocabulary knowledge but has sparked something within me to at least try to read some classics. I think knowing the history behind these notable authors will make reading them more enjoyable.
Mad Richard by Lesley Krueger
Published March 2017 by ECW Press
* an e-copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for my honest review