Mortal Love is Elizabeth Hand’s extremely unusual and strange novel about artistic inspiration and its relationship to obsession. It is narrated in two parallel stories, one taking place in the present and the other in the Victorian age.
In the story from the past, an American painter named Radborne Comstock meets Evienne Upstone, a model who has inspired the work of members of the Pre-Raphaelites and who has supposedly driven one painter insane. He finds this woman irresistable but she may be insane herself. Evienne has a close associate, a maid, who has blue fingers. Comstock experiences weird hallucinations when he is near Evienne, but is not sure whether they are hallucinations or he is going insane.
In the present time Daniel Rowlands, an American writer visiting in London, meets Larkin Meade, who seems to be the same woman as Evienne Upstone. She becomes his lover and leaves him physically and emotionally deranged.
In the meantime, a young man, Comstock’s grandson, who has been raised by a man with blue fingers and has fought insanity all his life, has become obsessed with his grandfather’s paintings of Evienne and decides to visit London.
This book is a wild, fantastic tale linking Celtic folklore, the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, and ancient mythologies. It is at times bewildering but also makes compelling reading.