Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand
Elizabeth Hand, who famously dealt with the Mother Goddess myth in Waking the Moon and the cult of Dionysus in Black Light, here tackles the subject of the fatal muse: the White Goddess, the lhiannan-sidhe, the Belle Dame Sans Merci.
Mortal Lovedrifts back and forth between several periods of history, between men throughout the years who have fallen under her seductive spell. Along the way there are Hand’s usual lush fruit-metaphors and insect-metaphors and jewel-metaphors, and as always her prose is an intoxicating fever-dream of a read.
Writing-wise, I think it was probably better than Waking the Moon, but I have to admit I liked Moon better. Moon had sympathetic, every-(wo)man sorts of characters who felt like old friends at first sight. Mortal Love has several characters who could be interesting, but Hand doesn’t spend enough time with any of them to truly show us what makes them tick, and none of them feel as tangible as, say, Sweeney Cassidy did.
Still a good book, though, and a wonderful job of using faery material without making it cute or childish in the least, retaining the deadly mystery of the old tales.
Mortal Love — (2004) Publisher: Lush, thrilling, and erotically charged, a triumph of suspense and dazzling imagination, Elizabeth Hand’s Mortal Love is an extraordinary work that spans more than a century, uniting genius past and present with strange, tensile strands of inspiration, obsession, and lust. A tragedy that occurs in a hospital for the insane in Frankfurt, Germany, will have repercussions across decades and eras. Several weeks after the death of a female patient in a terrible fire, the poet Algernon Swinburne follows a mysterious woman through the shadows toward a remarkable event at once enthralling, stimulating, and terrifying beneath the streets of London. Years later, at the start of a new century, a struggling young artist, Radborne Comstock, is introduced to a ravishing beauty who immediately becomes his muse, his desire, and his greatest torment. It is a legacy of pleasure and madness that will be passed down to his grandson, the dilettante actor Valentine Comstock, who is plagued by disturbing and increasingly erotic visions. And in the present day a journalist named Daniel Rowlands is seduced by the bewitching and mercurial Larkin Meade, who holds the key to lost artistic masterpieces, and to secrets too devastating to imagine. What connects these men — and others whose grand destinies are to imagine and create — is one woman. Eternal, unknowable, the very ideal of beautyand desirability, she exists somewhere beyond the boundaries of time, a sensuous dream of flesh and fantasy to inspire or destroy, an immortal lover… or an angel of death.