This is a hugely atmospheric book set in London in 1850. It reeks of gothic undertones, poverty and social class delineation. The characters are memorable and full of colour.
The female protagonist, Iris, moves from abject poverty to a life of relative luxury by becoming an artist’s model, even though the impact of this on her status in society brings mixed reactions. She learns to paint and finds herself thrown into the esoteric world of the Pre- Raphaelite painters.
On so many levels, this is a good read. There is much that is factual and true to the period and the novice to historical fiction will be drawn in and wanting to find out more. There is a love story with a strong female character who does not hesitate to explore her sexuality. There is a dark subplot involving stalking and kidnap which is chilling.
My only disappointment was the ending which seemed to lose impact, but perhaps there is another episode to appear in the future?
I have no hesitation in recommending this book and I am just sorry that I missed it as a serialized book at bedtime on BBC radio 4.