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Unto This Last: A Novel
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Unto This Last: A Novel (Paperback)

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London, 1858. Passionate, contradictory, and fiercely loyal to his friends, John Ruskin is an eccentric genius, famed across Britain for his writings on art and philosophy.

Haunted by a scandalous past and determined never to love again, the thirty-nine-year-old Ruskin shuns polite society in favour of a quiet existence at Denmark Hill, the home he shares with his domineering parents.

Reluctantly accepting a request by an Irish aristocrat to tutor her daughters in art, Ruskin becomes infatuated with his enigmatic student, Rose La Touche, an obsession with profound consequences that will change the course of his life and work.

Unto This Last is a portrait of Ruskin's tormented psyche and reveals a complex and misunderstood soul, longing for a life just out of reach.

Fiction & PoetryHistorical Fiction Publisher: Book Guild Publishing Ltd Publication Date: 27/08/2020 ISBN-13: 9781913208820  Details: Type: Paperback Format: Books
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Rebecca Lipkin was home-schooled from the age of twelve due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that left her bed-bound for many years. Rebecca cultivated a passion for Victorian art and literature from the confines of her room and it was during this time that she first discovered John Ruskin. Recovering enough strength to walk again after five years in bed, she joined the Ruskin Society as its youngest member, aged seventeen, where she furthered her knowledge about Ruskin. Through her own research, she learnt about Ruskin's fascinating relationship with Rose La Touche, a story that, ten years later, formed the basis of this biographical novel. Rebecca pursued a career in journalism, specialising in arts writing and theatre reviews, and she has worked for a number of national publications including The Stage. She has also been the editor of a travel magazine and is currently the Culture Editor of the arts and lifestyle publication, The Arbuturian. Rebecca lives in Bath and is currently writing her second historical novel.

More books by Rebecca Lipkin

Customer Reviews

I love Victorian literature although I'm rather ashamed to admit that I didn't know much about John Ruskin, the famous 19th art critic and philosopher, prior to reading this book. Now I feel like I know him inside and out - good, bad and indifferent! This book is perfect for anyone who enjoys classic literature, biography and compelling psychological analysis. It's brilliantly convincing and the author, whilst obviously being a Ruskin admirer, does not shirk from revealing his many faults. What makes Ruskin a character I ended up by loving like a member of my own family was the fact that he is so human and honest - so willing to own his imperfections and quite frankly bizarre and often melodramatic 'turns' which offer this book a great deal of dark humour. It's hard not to chuckle even when he is in the throes of the blackest form of depression. The story, told in four parts, opens when Ruskin is in middle-age and begins tutoring a young Irish girl, Rose La Touche, in art. Rose is a vivacious, intelligent and charismatic girl who is quick to learn from her illustrious art tutor and also inadvertently makes Ruskin aware of the childhood he has been deprived of due to having been home-educated and always tied to his mother's apron strings - he still is at the time of meeting Rose and lives with his parents despite grumbling about his lack of independence. Not only was it fascinating to be a bystander (that's how it feels) to Rose growing up, but observing how her maturity changes her complex relationship with Ruskin which gradually ends in him proposing marriage. Despite his apparent obsession for Rose, however, his affection always feels naive and innocent - something the author has very delicately handled given their 29-year age gap. Rose is Ruskin's womanly ideal - a virginal, angelic being whom Ruskin does not seem to be the least bit interested in sexually at any point. In many ways, this was a relief to me when I think of how young she was when they met. There is also an abundance of other brilliantly portrayed characters, from Ruskin's cousin Joan to his old maid Anne, Thomas Carlyle and the artist Edward 'Ned' Burne-Jones. I adored the depiction of Ruskin's Scottish parents, Margaret and John James - larger than life figures that love their son but expect his absolute devotion in return. This book made me reflect on my own relationships and has become one of my favourite books of all time. I have suggested it to my book club and will definitely read it again as there is so much in it to ponder on!

- 11/10/2020
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