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Stella Matutina
books and stories and musings, oh my!
Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand 
19th-Feb-2013 07:00 am
Cover art for Mortal Love, featuring a Pre-Raphaelite portrait of a very pale woman with long, red hair. She wears a green dress and is positioned with some green leaves in the background.Title MORTAL LOVE
Author: Elizabeth Hand
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Year: 2004
Pages: 364
Pushed By: Ana
Status: keeper

LibraryThing Info

Mortal Love for purchase at The Book Depository

A part of me would rather not talk about MORTAL LOVE.

Y’all know the most beloved books sometimes render me incoherent. This incoherent state generally goes hand in hand with verbosity--I have tons to say, but I don’t know exactly how I want to say it.

This is sort of like that, but upside down. I loved MORTAL LOVE and am sure I could say tons about it in as incoherent a fashion as one might wish, but I rather want to keep it for me.

I’ve obviously chosen to ignore this impulse (spurred on, of course, but a The People Need To Know mentality), but I felt you should know where I stand.

Okay. Let’s get on with this.

Even though MORTAL LOVE came with the highly respected Seal of Ana’s Approval(TM), I found the first chapter so confusing, and so devoid of a thread I could follow through to a satisfying story, that it looked like dark days ahead. I braced myself to abandon it by Chapter Three, after which point I would conveniently forget to mention I had ever tried to read it.

I was in love with it by page 20.

The People Magazine review excerpted on the cover calls MORTAL LOVE "a delightful waking dream;" as accurate a descriptor as I could hope for, with the caveat that the reviewer clearly shares my somewhat unconventional definition of "delightful." The novel is often dark, often wretched, often disturbing. Delightful if you’re up for that sort of thing; depressing if you’re not.

The waking dream bit, though, needs no qualifier. The story is dreamlike in the extreme, merging one scene with the next as smoothly as water flowing over polished stones. It provides few concrete answers, yet it’s never confusing or opaque. Hand spells little out, but the book’s structure encourages the reader to make every connection she needs. We know exactly what’s going on, despite the lack of overt confirmation.

MORTAL LOVE is a book about madness and art and intercourse between worlds (in all senses of the word). Like all the best dreams, it’s wild and dangerous and barely controlled, with a bizarre and vivid story at its heart.

It spans centuries, commenting on art and the soul and the very nature of creation.

It’s rich and strange; grounded and ethereal.

It reminded me of THE VINTNER’S LUCK, and of THE NIGHT CIRCUS.

It made me want to create.

It has me halfway convinced I should have asked more from it, but I’m not sure what else it could have given me without undermining itself.

It refuses to get out of my head.

I think you should read it, sooner rather than later.

4 stars – loved it

Other Reviews:

A Book A Week
Puss Reboots
Shelf Love
things mean a lot
You Can Never Have Too Many Books

If I missed yours, please let me know so I can add it to my list.

Back In the Day:
Writerly Thoughts
20th-Feb-2013 03:56 pm (UTC)
Hmmmmmmm. Memory. You have said many things that I find very persuasive. I started reading Mortal Love a few years ago and got discouraged in the first chapter. But I am very willing to try again, and persist through Chapter 3. I trust you and Ana and I want to love Elizabeth Hand.
20th-Feb-2013 05:26 pm (UTC)
The rest of the book is approximately twenty times better than the first chapter (which does make a bit more sense if you go back and reread it after you've finished the book).
21st-Feb-2013 02:48 am (UTC)
I bought this book in Portland years ago. I'll get to it eventually. One has to be in the right frame of mind to tackle Pre-Raphaelites.
22nd-Feb-2013 09:42 pm (UTC)
You speak truth. I can see this book being a total disappointment if you read it at the wrong time.
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