Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Arrow Chest - Robert Parry

Title: The Arrow Chest
Author: Robert Parry
Paperback: 332 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace
Published Date: January 2011

I love that I picked this one up as my first R.I.P. Challenge read.  What a wonderful Victorian Gothic story.  Take a struggling artist, throw in a muse, and a little Anne Boleyn ghost story and you've got The Arrow Chest.  By the way....Anne Boleyn was buried in a chest built for arrows because it fit her small size sans head - thus the title.  Spooky, right?

Back of the book:

London, 1876. The painter Amos Roselli is in love with his life-long friend and model, the beautiful Daphne - and she with him - until one day she is discovered by another man, a powerful and wealthy industrialist. What will happen when Daphne realizes she has sacrificed her happiness to a loveless marriage? What will happen when the artist realizes he has lost his most cherished source of inspiration? And how will they negotiate the ever-increasing frequency of strange and bizarre events that seem to be driving them inexorably towards self-destruction. Here, amid the extravagant Neo-Gothic culture of Victorian England, the iconic poem ‘The Lady of Shalott’ blends with mysterious and ghostly glimpses of Tudor history. Romantic, atmospheric and deeply dark.

My thoughts:

This book hooked me right from the start.  It has one of the best intros I've read in a long while. It starts with Amos Roselli called in to sketch what is believed to be the bones of Anne Boleyn.  Then something ghostly happens.  I don't want to tell you much though.  It was such an awesome creepy start to kick off the Gothic story.  Amos Roselli is then summoned by his friend muse, Daphne, to come visit and paint her wealthy husband.

I have to say that have yet to be disappointed with Robert Parry's writing.  His novel Virgin and the Crab (my review) is the best book on Queen Elizabeth I that I have yet to read.  I love that Roselli and Daphne are such lovely characters.  Being a painter and a woman possibly marrying for money, they could have been annoying and trite but they weren't.  My favorite character was the wonderfully loyal young housekeeper of Roselli's, Beth.  While I was expecting a slightly more ghost story and a bit more Anne Boleyn creepiness - the subtleness of the similarities between Daphne and Anne Boleyn was by far more impressive.  With beautifully written and engaging characters, The Arrow Chest was the perfect Victorian Gothic tale to jump start the Autumn and RIP season.

By the way, I adore Pre-Raphaelites and I thought Roselli was an awesome fictional painter.  I was Googling around and found this painting:

From Scandalous Women

This is what I imagine Daphne to look like in the book.  Anyone know who painted it or who it is?

*** Robert Parry emailed me after I wrote this review and I'm just going to include what he wrote:

Dear Amanda,
Just to say a big Thank You for your review of The Arrow Chest yesterday - which I thought was just delightful, and I am so pleased you enjoyed reading it. I really like the painting you discovered, by the way. I asked a few art wizards on Facebook if they could identify it and they came up with the Victorian actress Lillie Langtry, painted by Sir Edward John Poynter in 1877. So spot on in terms of timing - the very year in which most of the action in the story takes place. I have a photo album on Facebook of fantasy illustrations for the Arrow Chest, and I am going to add this to it.

With Kind Regards,

***How cool is that coincidence?  Check out the Facebook page for The Arrow Chest - I'm perusing the photos there right now.

Just a side note:

Being a tad bit of a cover snob, I was curious about this unique cover. It honestly is perfectly dark but not my favorite.  I do love though that in the inside of the book it says the picture is "Daphne" by Amos Roselli.  Ok.  That's pretty cool even though someone wrote on this post of mine that it looked like her 1987 prom dress.  What do you think?

Also Reviewed By:

Maelgwns Muse
Historical Fiction & Q&A
Luxury Reading & Guest Post
Historical Tapestry  & Why Robert Parry Loves Pre-Raphelites
So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Peeking Between the Pages (Robert Parry Guest Post)

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