I’m thrilled to be today’s host on the blog tour for Marina Fiorato’s latest book, Crimson & Bone, a gripping story of love and obsession set in 19th century London, Florence and Venice.
Plus, I’m delighted to give one of you the opportunity to win a copy of Crimson & Bone (UK & Republic of Ireland only). To enter, click the link below. The giveaway closes on 26th May 2017.
About the Book
London, 1853. Annie Stride has nothing left to live for – she is a penniless prostitute, newly evicted from her home and pregnant. On the night she plans to cast herself from Waterloo Bridge into the icy waters of the Thames, her life is saved by Francis Maybrick Gill, a talented pre-Raphaelite painter – and her world is changed forever. Francis takes Annie as his artist’s muse, elevating her from fallen woman to society’s darling. With her otherworldly beauty now the toast of London, her dark past is left far behind. But Annie’s lavish new life is not all is seems – and there are some who won’t let her forget where she came from…
- Format: Hardback
- Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
- No. of pages: 320
- Publication date: 18th May 2017
- Genre: Historical Fiction, Historical Romance
To purchase Crimson & Bone from Amazon.co.uk, click here (link provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme)
Find Crimson & Bone on Goodreads
I have really enjoyed all the previous books by Marina Fiorato that I’ve read so I came to this one with high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed.
For the first part of the book, the author moves away from her usual Italian setting and we find ourselves in London of 1853. Alongside Annie’s story, the reader is given tantalising glimpses of the story of her friend, Mary Anne, and how the two girls first met. In their names and occupation, there are echoes of actual historical events in the East End of London of that era. Only towards the end of the book does the reader learn how their two stories converge.
As well as being his muse and model, Annie quickly learns that Francis expects her to be grateful for his rescue of her and to express that gratitude both verbally and by going along with his plans for her. For him, ingratitude is the most heinous of sins. Annie learns how to please him – by altering her dress, deportment and speech according to his instruction – similar to the way she learned to meet the sexual needs of her clients, suppressing her own nature in the process. As part of this transformation of her, Francis introduces Annie to works of art, literature and music – but always those of his own choosing.
Francis seems to want to ‘remake’ her in the image of some idealised woman for a reason as yet unknown. Here the reader may observe intertextual links with Pygmalion, both the Greek myth of the sculptor who falls in love with his statue of the sea-nymph, Galatea, which eventually comes to life, and the George Bernard Shaw play in which a ‘flower girl’ (possibly a euphemism for prostitute) is transformed into a society lady. Other links include the fact that Edward Burne-Jones, a leading Pre-Raphaelite (the school of art with which the fictional Francis Maybrick Gill associates) painted a series entitled ‘Pygmalion and Galatea’.
There are explicit references as well: to Dante, the death of whose great love, Beatrice, inspired his greatest work, The Divine Comedy; to Alexandre Dumas’ La Dame aux Camelias, based on the author’s love affair with a courtesan; and to La Traviata, Verdi’s opera based on Dumas’ novel. The flower, the camellia, will come to play a significant role in Annie’s story. Themes of control, death and obsessive love are a constant undertone to the emerging narrative.
The novel is full of beautiful descriptive writing about art and, as the title suggests, it is suffused with colour, both actual and metaphorical. At one point, Annie likens the way she is being ‘remade’ by Francis to a transformation from black and white pen and ink sketch to ‘fully coloured’. She feels Francis has approached her like one of his paintings, starting with the background, then adding broad strokes, then blocking in the colour and finally adding the detail in finer strokes. Later, Annie’s introduction to the colours of the rainbow will mark an awakening of other feelings and herald new possibilities.
In the last two sections, the story moves to Florence and Venice, where the sense of gothic melodrama increases as dark and disturbing secrets are brought to light. In the end, as a mystery tour, it’s not too difficult to guess the destination but this by no means spoils the journey which is lavishly depicted, dark and compelling. After just a few pages, I found myself completely immersed in the story and enthralled by the gorgeous, lush writing. I think this is my favourite of all the author’s novels to date.
Thank you to Jenni Leech at publishers, Hodder & Stoughton, for my proof copy in return for an honest review.
In three words: Intense, dark, compelling
Try something similar…Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
About the Author
Marina Fiorato is half-Venetian. She was born in Manchester and raised in the Yorkshire Dales. She is a history graduate of Oxford University and the University of Venice, where she read for a master’s degree in Shakespeare. After university she studied art and worked in the film and music industries, creating visuals for U2, The Rolling Stones and the Queen musical, We Will Rock You. Her novels Daughter of Siena and Beatrice & Benedick were shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Historical Fiction Award. Marina was married on the Grand Canal in period costume and lives in north London with her husband, son and daughter.
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