I have to say this up front: this book is really weird. I had a hard time deciding if I wanted to review this book in this blog because I did not have a stellar rating for it. Yet, I didn't think it was fair to only review good books rather than create a space for honest opinion. Especially since there were aspects of the book that I geniunely enjoyed even if I didn't enjoy the way it was presented.
Mortal Love takes you on a romp through English Romantic/artistic history but does so sporadically. From a reader's point of view you feel very uprooted and not in control. As the book spirals towards the ending the various perspectives that make up the narrative begin to feed into one another to present a complete picture that has only appeared as fragments before. Yet you are still left with a lot of holes in the story, and without a background in Medieval and Romantic literature, some of the dropped hints would make no sense. Randomly, I took a course in undergrad on Medieval Welsh Literature and read the Mabinogion. However, it is definitely not a text I would expect the average person to have read, as it is a fairly obscure here in the US.
I considered putting this book down a couple of times because it is very difficult to stay focused when the main characters are all beginning their own descents in madness. There has only been one time that I actually gave up on a book because I couldn't stand to read it. In this case I persevered because of the language. It is fractured and painful but at the same time exquisite and sensual. The details that Elizabeth Hand puts into simple descriptions makes it almost possible to see the story unfolding in your mind . Personally, it felt like the images she was conjuring resembled Mucha paintings: bright stark colors with that underlying suggestion of softness.
If you are up for the challenge of a sensual, overly sexualized faery tale then I would suggest taking a stab at it, but this book is draining. Although I loved being able to use the knowledge of Welsh literature that I stored away during my semester abroad in Ireland, but without a background like that this book falls flat.