Vicky Darling is the rebellious, artistically talented daughter of a wealthy plumbing magnate, coming of age in Edwardian England at the height of the women’s suffrage movement.
The title ironically references Queen Victoria’s condemnation of “… this mad, wicked folly of ‘Women’s Rights’ with all its attendant horrors on which her poor feeble sex is bent, forgetting every sense of womanly feelings and propriety.” Vicky’s personal struggles to become a respected artist are paralleled with those of the suffragists with whom she becomes closely involved when her arranged marriage with a wealthy scion of a well-bred family falls apart and she is cut off from the family finances. Vicky finally finds true reward when she is accepted into the Royal College of Art on her own merits. Her lower-class lover and sometime “undraped” art model, police constable Will Fletcher, finally agrees to an artistic partnership publishing the “tuppenny novelettes” he writes and she illustrates. Although the modern dialogue is jarring at times and the plot somewhat implausible, the narrative moves swiftly along, and the historical background is painted credibly and with a light touch. The moving and authentic portrayal of Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughters will engage readers with an interest in the history of the women’s movement. Author’s notes at the end of the book on Edwardian life, the women’s movement and the Pre-Raphaelite art movement, on which much of the fine art thread in the book is based, are helpful in establishing the context of the novel.
An enjoyable historical romp. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)