#BlogTour Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin

Today it’s my turn and the last day of the BlogTour Unto This Last by Rebecca Lipkin.

About the Author

Rebecca Lipkin has had a passion for Victorian art and literature from a young age. She first discovered John Ruskin through E.M. Forster’s novel, A Room with a View, and later joined the Ruskin Society at the age of seventeen to learn more about Ruskin’s work. Rebecca pursued a career in journalism, specialising in arts writing and theatre reviewed, and has worked for a number of national publications. 

Rebecca says, “Most accounts of John Ruskin’s complex personal life focus on his brief marriage to Effie Gray, but his twenty-year relationship with Rosa La Touche was of huge importance to the evolution of his thinking; it is a captivating and tragic story of two people whose loving friendship transcended boundaries and conventions to the very end.” 

Follow @rebecca_lipkin on Twitteron Goodreads, Visit rebeccalipkin.comBuy Unto This Last

About the book

London, 1858. Passionate, contradictory, and fiercely loyal to his friends, John Ruskin is an eccentric genius, famed across Britain for his writings in art and philosophy. Haunted by a scandalous past and determined never to love again, the 39-year-old Ruskin becomes infatuated with his enigmatic young student, Rose La Touche, an obsession with profound consequences that will change the course of his life and work.

Written in a style recalling Victorian literature and spanning a period of twenty years, the story poses questions about the nature of live, the boundaries of parenthood, and compatibility in marriage. Unto This Last is a portrait of Ruskin’s tormented psyche and reveals a complex and misunderstood soul, longing for a life just out of reach.

Review

John Ruskin is very much a man of his privileged upbringing, but also one who has clearly struggled in the past to fit into society, because he refuses to conform when it comes to certain areas.

He is already a man with an established reputation as art critic, artist, teacher and philosopher, however the contrast to those exceptional traits is his scandalous personal life. In his fourth decade he becomes enamoured by a young girl called Rose, perhaps because they both share an openness when it comes to discovering the world around them – the ability to look beyond the boundaries others set, and the inability to abide by all the restrictions others set.

John is a constant disappointment to his parents, and yet is bound to them like a young child unwilling to sever the ties, whereas Rose is bound by parents who expect their daughter to obey and not bring a hint of scandal upon them. Unfortunately their story, although a long one, doesn’t end well for either.

I think a distinction should be made, although one could argue that the two are inseparable, between Ruskin’s vision, talent and his sexuality, his lack of interaction in his short-lived marriage, and of course his attraction to Rose. Obviously his relationship and love for Rose can be classed as hebophilia, and would be today.

However given his marriage and lack of interest in his wife I think he was probably a man who had experienced a lack of affection and love or perhaps it was just a matter of asexuality. Being asexual would explain both scenarios and especially why he felt as if he had found someone who understood him, his soul if you like, in young Rose.

George Shaw makes an interesting point; ‘Isn’t he a Victorian Warhol, on the edge and in the centre at all times? And like Warhol, he saw his own philosophy and his belief not within himself but in the world around him.’

You have the genius, perhaps before his time, who is regarded as peculiar and as not always adhering to societal standards. In fact his aptitude in regards to art and the way artists held him in regard and  the way he endeavoured to share this love, without any self-recognition of his own talent in comparison, is very telling. Isn’t that always the way of things that men and women who have the capacity to think beyond the norms and boundaries, that they are often slotted into categories of the mentally ill, a danger to society, heretics and so on, depending on the era they live or lived in. I think that is also the case for Ruskin.

Lipkin absolutely does his life, the disparity between the way historians regard him, and the way he was both perceived and he perceived himself, absolute justice. It’s actually strange to think of it as a fictional account, albeit one based on factual events, records and historical records, because Lipkin seems to capture him so well.

I’d also agree and kudos to the author for looking beyond the short marriage and the questions which arose from it, and perhaps also for steering clear of recent televised accounts of his life. Instead the story is an attempt to understand the man behind the reputation, the rumours and more importantly behind the mind of the man who left a the legacy for future generations to enjoy.

Buy Unto This Last at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Book Guild Publishing: pub date 28 August 2020 – £9.99. Buy at Book GuildBuy at Waterstones.

#BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley by Ian Thornton

Today it’s my turn on the BlogTour The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley. It’s alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

About the Author

Ian Thornton’s debut novel, The Great and Calamitous Tale of Johan Thoms (How One Man Scorched the Twentieth Century, but Didn’t Mean to) was published by Simon & Schuster Canada in September 2013. Harper Collins published worldwide on June 28th 2014 to coincide with the centenary of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand, the pivot of the novel. It was translated across Europe and taught at the Sorbonne.

Prior to becoming a novelist, Ian worked for Broadcast magazine in London and also for Variety. He is a co-founder of the global television industry publisher, C21 Media and http://www.c21media.net.

He covered the Royal wedding in London for CTV, Canada’s premier independent broadcaster, and has recently written for Wisden Cricketer, The Guardian, The Hindu and for the Soho House magazine, House. He also wrote on the football World Cup in South Africa for the Canadian sports channel, The Score, and has worked for Queen’s University in Ontario, where his project was presented at the White House as part of President Obama’s new media initiative.

Ian is the official biographer of the Compton cricket club in California and has been a judge on the largest Latin American film festival, Expresion en Corto. He is currently producing a feature documentary.

Originally from Leeds, Ian currently resides in Toronto with his wife Heather Gordon and their children, Laszlo and Clementine.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley

About the book

Aleister Crowley – otherwise known as the Great beast – is one of the most reviled men in history. Satanist, cult leader, debauched novelist and poet, his legacy has been hotly contested for decades.

But the truth is: Crowley is alive and well, in the elevated and life-preserving air of Shangri-la. they used to call him the wickedest man in the world, but the Great Beast only laughs at those fools. the British Secret Service, Churchill and Rasputin all knew the real Crowley, who was the greatest spy and the Scarlet Pimpernel of the twentieth century. this genuine English hero and unrivalled drug fiend used his pre-eminent knowledge of the Occult to run amok behind German lines in two world wars and to turn both Mussolini and Hitler into twitching and hollow wrecks.

And so now, the inspiration behind the music and sexual revolutions of the sixties is about to return for his curtain call, for there is a dark Orwellian dystopia coming. And Aleister Crowley is convinced that only he can save the world.

Review

‘There is no law beyond Do what thou wilt. Love is the law, love under will.’ The problem with people who believe their own myth is that they can be dangerous, and also very convincing. Crowley was like many charismatic people who like to shower themselves in the admiration of others. Creating his own set of rules, guidelines and morals in order to excuse his own lack of adherence to any the aforementioned dictated by society.

If you read between the lines I think Thornton allows a window into the relationships, events and experiences that could have shaped Aleister into the man he became. Although hidden behind the sarcastic meanderings and a seemingly nonchalant attitude Crowley has towards his childhood and experiences as a young man, the scared and vulnerable child shines through. Neglect, abuse and association with adults who would rather use than guide the child, all of those things define the young boy and meld him into the grown man he becomes.

The suggestion being that we only ever see the surface and can never know what a person has been defined by. It puts a different slant or perspective on the historical version of Crowley, albeit one based on a fictional narrative.

The concept is quite clever and allows for a multitude of scenarios and storylines. There seemed to be a slight fixation on the sexual side of the story. The way the abuse as a child was smoothed over and led straight into the manipulative sexual rituals of certain groups, was slightly disconcerting.

It’s an ambitious piece of work, there’s no doubt about that. I enjoyed the style and the writing. It’s alternate history come historical and biographical fiction.

Buy The Deaths and Afterlife of Aleister Crowley at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer. Publisher: Unbound; pub date 22 Aug. 2019. Buy at Amazon com.