Following Ophelia is the story of a girl called Mary who goes to London to become a scullery maid. It’s 1857. The work is hard. Mary is bad at it … but she sees a painting called ‘Ophelia’ by the John Everett Millais, and the girl looks like her. Maybe girls with long red hair and green eyes don’t have to tuck themselves away in kitchens and attics, unseen by the world.
Millais is one of the Pre-Raphaelites. They’re known for their scandalous lifestyles. When one of them, a young man called Felix Dawson, asks to paint her, Mary starts on a secret adventure and a new, hidden life. Mary loves the thrill of being an artist’s muse, but it turns out she is bad at keeping secrets too …
“not only a thoroughly enjoyable romp through Victorian London, but also a great book for introducing Pre-Raphaelite art”
Lucy Banks, author of The Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost
I’ve never written a historical novel before. My publishers, Stripes, suggested the idea and when I tried it out, I loved it. This is mid-Victorian London, awash with hackney carriages and gas lamps, soot-belching chimneys, colourful costermongers and rich ladies in hooped skirts. I love costume, and this is the era of the insanely large crinoline, corseted waists, limitless embellishments and ravishing hats. The Pre-Raphaelites broke every code of dress and behaviour. They did what they wanted, painted as they chose and created a new movement in art. Their most famous muses were girls from ordinary backgrounds, with spectacular features and long red hair. Until then, red hair was considered something to be ashamed of, but they celebrated it. Imagine being captured forever in one of their paintings. Mary imagines it … and so did I.
But where does it lead you? How much power does a muse have when she needs to do something important, like save the life of someone she loves? Mary doesn’t think about this until it is nearly too late.
I had such fun writing this book. It comes out in March 2017, with its stunning auburn-haired cover. Thank you for my amazing cover, Stripes! Book 2 in the series, which I’m working on now, will be out later in 2017.
A vivid portrait of Pre-Raphaelite glamour and the perils of beauty, desire and independence.
Anna McKerrow, author and children’s book review editor for Booktrust
Sophia has conjured up a world as alive with colour and texture and beauty and rebellion as the paintings that she references … I was utterly engrossed from first page to last.
Perdita Cargill, author of Waiting for Callback