Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
Mortal Love is a fascinating novel that spans the lives of various poets and artists and musicians over a hundred years as they encounter a mysterious woman. For each of them, she ("Larkin Meade" in the present day) is both lover and muse, inspiring in each the most powerful work they will ever produce. Elizabeth Hand's writing is densely sensuous, her words aptly evoking the artistry of her subjects, and almost poetic in its intensity. Many historical figures appear in this work, including some notable Decadents and members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
The novel's viewpoint switches repeatedly between characters living at different times. It takes a little while to get used to these changes, and sometimes the thread of the narrative almost passes out of prose and into poetry. That is to say, if you let yourself go and allow the story wash over you, you may find it easier to navigate some of the changes. The story, and the many twists and turns it takes through art, love, madness, folklore, obsession, and mystery are well worth your time.