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Mad Richard Paperback – March 14, 2017
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“In this remarkable piece of historical fiction, Krueger (Drink the Sky) imaginatively delves into the life of Richard Dadd . . . The two story lines . . . effectively juxtapose Dadd and Brontë, two very different people who travelled in similar circles during the same era and, more importantly, who were both entirely invested in what it means to be an artist. This question anchors the novel, adding depth and dimension to a terrific read.” ― Publishers Weekly, starred review>
“Krueger’s portrait of artists as young men and women is alive with wit and rebellion ― an aesthetic vivisection of the young Victorian age.” ― Globe and Mail
Screenwriter and novelist Krueger (The Corner Garden, 2003, etc.) uses her visual artistry to good effect in vividly portraying a squalid London in which talent doesn’t always lead to fame or fortune. Exploring the vibrant cultural awakenings of the Victorian age, Krueger intriguingly populates her scenes with the artistic glitterati of the day . . . An entrancing portrait of artistic minds confounded by the Victorian Age.” ― Kirkus Reviews
“There is much to ponder in this elegant novel about the potentially catastrophic emotional toll of art, the irrational nature of love, the solitude of heartache and what happens when one life touches another, however briefly.” ― Toronto Star
“By portraying artists before and after their most significant achievements, Krueger is able to tease out a moving narrative of fame, beauty and what an artist owes his or her craft.” ― Shelf Awareness for Readers
“A wonderfully elegant novel that led me back to rereading Jane Eyre and a first time go-around with her other two noted novels, Shirley and Villette, this one enthralled me.” ― Owen Sound Sun Times
“Krueger’s research is evident in every paragraph: from the use of authentic slang to richly sketched portraits of the lives of the era’s rich and poor, the book confidently transports the reader to another time.” ― Quill & Quire
“The knitting together of Charlotte Brontë’s and Richard Dadd’s different trajectories worked like a dream. I was enthralled.” ― Terry Gilliam
“Characters from all sections of society are well drawn, believable and paint a colourful picture of the diversity in Victorian Britain . . . Historical Fiction at its best.” ― Book Literati
“This is a beautifully written book that succeeds in weaving together the stories of these two very different people, who have in common ambition, a love of art, and an ambivalent feeling about fame. Charlotte’s story is bittersweet and grounded in reality. Richard’s is horrifyingly tragic and surreal. The author does a wonderful job of presenting his descent into madness in a vivid, realistic, and sympathetic way.” ― Susan Coventry’s Blog
“A wonderful read that allows readers to savor moments, thoughts and questions long after the last page is turned.” ― I Am, Indeed
“Smart and satisfying.” ― Fine Books Magazine
“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.” ― Lost in the Rain blog
“Fascinating and richly detailed . . . Mad Richard is grippingly told and replete with evocative descriptions.” ― CNQ
From the Inside Flap
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.
Top customer reviews
At one point Richard, still in his early 20s, walks south of the Thames in the evening. He admired the London's "peach-colored" sunset and marveled that "a round space opened in his mind and spread without impediment into the world," turning everything "into a lofty exalted cave that at once enclosed him" but without limits. As an awed Richard passed Bedlam, he saw that "every metal paling quivered brilliantly in the coral light." On a pigeon that pecked at his feet "he saw each feather as if he'd drawn it," all of them "stained a rosy silver," as the rooftops above "blushed."
In this environment, according to the novelist's conception, his head was enveloped by "a fog of tiny, fugitive dancing figures, male and female: the thoughts and memories that deviled him, as the spirits had decreed they always would."
One doesn't arrive to the end of Dadd's story until fairly late in the book. Only after the author has rendered her conception of Dadd's 1842 and 1843 adventures in Lebanon, Cairo, Thebes and his 1843 tour of Europe with Sir Thomas Phillips does the author come around to the event that caused Dadd's undoing. Before that, she most expertly illustrates the artist's madness at its foundation.
But if you've never explored the biography of Richard Dadd, don't---until you have first read this wonderful novel. Let it be a surprise.
Let it come to you enshrined in the artistic frame that it justly deserves.
This was in 1853 when Bronte, in unrequited love with her publisher, was uncertain as to whether or not she should accept a proposal of marriage from Arthur Nicholls, her father's curate. Dadd, well past the threshold of madness at this time, was in "Bedlam" for having committed murder. While on a trip to Egypt as artist in residence to a wealthy patron (Sir Thomas Phillips), Dadd had undergone some sort of "event" at Karnak. His imagination became "full of wild vagaries," and he was invited by Osiris to "join" him.
The reader extracts a partial biography of Bronte's life and a thorough biography of Dadd's through the various chapters devoted to each. The author, Charles Dickens, a contemporary of the two, out and about in London at this time also visits Dadd at Bethlem Royal Hospital.
This is an engrossing novel! The reader is able to fairly inhabit Richard Dadd's formative years, his struggles, his psyche and his transformations. Author, Lesley Krueger, who has a family connection with Richard Dadd, was privy to family lore. She also gained access to records at Bethlem, and researched Dadd through previous biographies about him. This is a fascinating journey into the mind of an artist and his madness.
The book felt like an excellent description of a man's descent into madness. The reader could vividly experience the process due to the writer's scrupulous descriptions.
However, descent into madness is a depressing experience. And so it was with the reading of this book. The author gives an insightful description of the times, the environment. But the book for me was unrelentingly depressing.