Life Mask Pdf Summary Reviews By Emma Donoghue

Life Mask Pdf Summary

Lord Derby, unhappily married and the inventor of the horse race that bears his name, is the steadfast suitor of England’s leading comedy star, Eliza Farren. When the working-class actress begins a deep friendship with the aristocratic widow Anne Damer, a sculptor and rumoured Sapphist, the consequent scandal threatens to topple Eliza from her precarious position and destroy the lives of all three.

In an England overshadowed by the French Revolution, shaken by terrorism and a repressive government, Emma Donoghue leads her characters in an intricate minuet of public ambition and private passion.

In the Houses of Parliament, on the stage, in the bedroom, at the race track and in the intimate salons of the Beau Monde, Life Mask brings to life a world where political liaisons prove just as dangerous as erotic ones.


Life Mask Review

Paul McGrath

5.0 out of 5 stars Life Among the Ladies and Gents
Reviewed in the United States on September 29, 2004

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In her previous novel, Slammerkin, Ms.Donoghue created a superbly realized piece of literature based on a tiny historical footnote: one Mary Saunders, a prostitute, in 1760’s England, was put to death at the age of 16 for murdering her benefactor. Out of this tidbit came a vivid, engrossing and deliciously lurid tale.

In this, her latest novel, she is quite a bit more ambitious. For now her tale encompasses the lives of not one, but three characters in 18th century England, each of whom is far more complex than poor Mary, being as they are at the forefront of London society, politics and culture. Although the historical record gives Ms. Donoghue more to work with, there is still plenty of room for her imagination to soar, and soar it surely does in this magnificent novel.

The notable accomplishment here, and the thing which historical fiction aficionados most desire, is that it wholly transports one to another time and place. More than just recounting events or the clothes one wore, the reader wishes to come to know people. What were their thoughts, their motivations, their fears, their hopes in this long ago period? How were they able to cope, and what were society’s expectations of and limitations on them?

Ms. Donoghue expertly brings this era to life–the ten year period beginning in 1787 London–through the lives of her three main characters. They are: Eliza Farren, the premiere comedic actress of her day; the Earl of Derby, her suitor, a member of the House of Lords, and the richest man in England; and Anne Damer, a member of the nobility, and a noted sculptress.

Eliza Farren was not born to the nobility but finds her ticket out of the dregs is her beauty and superb composure on the London stage. She attains fame, but interestingly in these times, fame does not necessarily translate into wealth, although she does well enough. Nevertheless, she is morbidly aware that a slip, a slur, a misstep, could end her career in a heartbeat. Life in the colorful London theater was fraught with anxiety.

During this time she is courted by Lord Derby, who is married but estranged from his wife. We learn that a lady’s virtue in 18th century London was of extreme importance, and fascinatingly, throughout the entire lengthy courtship, Ms. Farren never has a single meeting with Lord Derby without the accompaniment of her chaperone mother. In today’s day and age, this is almost hard to believe, but back then, a lady’s reputation was quite often her only asset. In Miss Farren’s case, everything depended on it.

But the novel does not simply leave it at that. Their contrived behavior has a profound effect on their relationship. Derby must be almost inhumanely patient, and occasionally boils over with suppressed desire. Eliza over time becomes brittle and distant, resisting as she must the advances of her suitor, while at the same time sublimating ever more deeply the longing in her heart.

Derby, as a member of the House of Lords, has vital, political concerns. George III is on the throne, and resistant to the reforms England so desperately needs. To come into power he and the members of the Whig party to which he belongs feel they must court and cajole the Prince, the loutish, debt-ridden, indecisive “Prinny,” an enormously complicated task. In the meantime, events are occurring across the water in France, which also cause a great deal of concern. The narrative, again, makes these events very personal. To us, Marie Antoinette was the woman who said, “Let them eat cake.” To Derby, Marie was an acquaintance. News of her lonely execution was both shocking and horrifying, and sent a collective chill of fear throughout his circle.

The most fascinating character in the novel, however, is the widowed sculptor, Anne Damer. Ms. Damer is a member of the nobility, putting on dinners, sponsoring plays, and visiting her clever and distinguished relatives, but always moving with a sense of trepidation in, “the tiny universe of rules and whispers,” she inhabits. She eventually becomes ensnared. You see, Ms. Damer is a lesbian, and in the England of the late 18th century, such a thing was not acknowledged, even to oneself. Ms. Damer, emotionally complex and hugely sympathetic, never even considers the possibility. The reader, however, begins to suspect this long before she does. In reaction to her sharp criticism on an unrelated matter, the tabloids unfairly accuse her of “sapphism.” Even the whisper of such a thing could bring catastrophic consequences to one’s life, and for Anne it brings to her an agonizing journey of self-discovery. When her moment finally arrives, the reader reacts with an almost palpable sense of relief, of joy even. It is an emotionally wrenching, subtle, and intensely erotic scene.

It becomes apparent that the “Life Mask” of the title is quite a bit more telling than simply being a description of the method by which Anne begins her sculptures. In this rigid, rule-bound society, wearing a life mask in one’s daily affairs was practically a necessity. And perhaps only slightly more so than the ones we ourselves wear today.

This book is a masterpiece. It is complex, detailed and with multi-layered, nuanced, painfully human characters. At the same time it is a very readable and engrossing entertainment. Admittedly, the opening is little daunting, as one is introduced quickly to a rather large number of Earls and Lords and Ladies and Dukes, but after fifty pages or so, it moves along painlessly. With her previous novel and now this, Ms. Donoghue has established not only that she is an outstanding writer of fiction, she has established that she is currently among the finest writers of fiction in the English language.

J. Jamakaya

4.0 out of 5 stars Complex Mix of 18th Century Sexual and Political Intrigue
Reviewed in the United States on December 14, 2014

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“Life Mask” is a long, leisurely novel that charts the personal and romantic maneuverings of three prominent characters against the political backdrop of late 18th century England. It chronicles the intersecting lives of the widowed sculptor Anne Damer, who is hounded by rumors that she is a Sapphist (lesbian); the lovesick Lord Derby who pursues with persistence a woman not his wife; and Eliza Farren, a popular comedic actress determined to improve her social position. While charting these characters’ struggles for self-fulfillment, the author highlights interesting issues of the time: the growth of liberalism in the wake of the American and French Revolutions; the vibrant, raucous theatrical world (playwright Richard Sheridan is a major character); the vicious scandalmongering of the emerging press; and the search for love and security in a society that restricts women’s choices.

I can see how the book’s length and the details of political rivalries in Georgian England might put off some American readers. Despite those challenges, I enjoyed the details and slow development of the story. Emma Donoghue inhabits her characters’ hearts and minds the way few other novelists do. I got to like the main players in their long journeys to self-discovery, and I was impressed by the author’s command of historical detail and social manners. She captured romantic longing and repulsion, friendship, duty, betrayal, family ties and inheritance, artistic endeavor (sculpting and acting) and social conventions in all their complexity. The depiction of Anne Damer slowly coming to an understanding of her sexual nature against all odds was particularly thoughtful. I recommend “Life Mask” for patient readers who enjoy historical and romantic fiction.

About Emma Donoghue Author Of Life Mask pdf Book

emma donoghue
emma donoghue

Emma Donoghue the author of Life Mask pdf book grew up in Ireland, 20s in England doing a PhD in eighteenth-century literature, since then in Canada. Best known for my novel, film and play ROOM, also other contemporary and historical novels and short stories, non-fiction, theatre and middle-grade novels.

Life Mask pdf, Paperback, Hardcover Book Information

Life Mask pdf book
Life Mask pdf book
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harper Perennial; First edition (September 5, 2005)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 672 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0156032643
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0156032643
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 10.4 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 5.4 x 1.23 x 7.96 inches
  • Best Sellers Rank: #2,390,283 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • #4,498 in Biographical Historical Fiction
  • #6,472 in Biographical Fiction (Books)
  • #97,333 in Literary Fiction (Books)
  • Customer Reviews: 4.4 out of 5 stars    89 ratings

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