Life Mask is a novel set in 18th century London. The main characters are members of the Beau Monde (aka The World), but times are changing. Revolution is ravaging France, and people are taking sides in England, as party politics pits an aging, sometimes mad, King George against the irresponsible playboy Prince.
As a lover of historical fiction, I am a little torn with how to review to this book. On the one hand, I enjoyed the writing and the “feel” of the book. I could imagine this as an Andrew Davies BBC mini-series. It felt cold and English, with subtle beauty and little depth. A parallel narrative to the bigger political picture was the demand for change in women’s lives, as Donoghue featured main characters who struggle with society’s demands that they marry and submit to their husbands. These women want to be free – even to the point of experimenting with homosexuality. While the lesbian bit wasn’t overdone, I’d rather Donoghue had left it out. It just seemed out of place here.
Normally I would have given a novel like this 4 stars, but it didn’t quite live up to it. Perhaps it could have used more editing, or a sharper plot.
3 1/2 stars (out of 5)
Published in 2005