In the lushly written and tightly plotted tradition of Fingersmith and The Miniaturist, A Gathering of Shadows is Kris Waldherr’s debut novel and first non-illustrated book.
‘I am half sick of shadows,’ said
The Lady of Shalott….
In 1888 London, Elizabeth Sirini is a young woman haunted by shadows: the shadow of her father’s untimely death, the shadow of a broken engagement, and the shadow of her thwarted scholarly aspirations, all which led to her collapse a year earlier. Shadows also plague the painter St. John Dulac, whose scandalous elopement with an American heiress led to his rise and fall as the enfant terrible of the Royal Academy of Art. Therefore it’s no surprise that, when Elizabeth and St. John meet at a séance one afternoon, he is immediately entranced by her beauty and the sadness she carries like a weight.
Thinking Elizabeth would be perfect to pose for his new canvas of the Lady of Shalott—the girl of Arthurian legend whose unrequited love for Lancelot led to her death—St. John asks Elizabeth to model for the painting, which he hopes will rescue his tarnished career. Logic-minded Elizabeth is initially dismissive of his offer. However, swayed by the generous pay that would alleviate her family’s oppressive debt and charmed by St. John and his seductive wife Nessa, she reluctantly agrees.
Before long, Elizabeth is swept up in the Dulacs’ glittering, bohemian world—a decadent milieu where the hunger for sensation and beauty reigns supreme over truth and honor. Life imitates art when Elizabeth learns of a gothic tragedy involving St. John’s previous model, a mysterious woman with a past no one will speak of. As Elizabeth struggles to uncover the truth about her predecessor and St. John before it’s too late, secret histories and desires are brought to light. Love and inspiration become a currency to be used and discarded at will—even if the consequences include madness and death.
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An inspiration for A Gathering of Shadows: The Lady of Shalott painted by J. W. Waterhouse in 1888.