A postcard from Jane.

Today, to my surprise, I received a postcard from Jane. Jane Morris. She lived in England between 1839 and 1914. She was a model. In those Victorian times she was one of the three grand ladies of painting next to Elisabeth Siddal who was portrayed as Ophelia by the great painter John Everett Millais and Dorothy Dene, one of the three muses I am writing about in my new novel. Dorothy was no doubt the most beautiful of the three but she was a kind of Marilyn Monroe and died at a too early age of 39 presumably of laudanum overdose but probably due to an abortion that went wrong.

Anyway, Jane Morris was as a model rather surprisingly probably the most successful of the three women. She was married to a known and respected painter and by that was wealthy compared to others. And she was the lover of Dante Gabriel Rosetti, the prince charming of the pre Raphaelites. Jane is the most portrayed and Jane was no doubt the least talented of the three models in those days. Dorothy was an actress and Elisabeth Siddal a very talented paintress. Jane however was a model of vry humble working class descent, her talent being a mystifying beauty and an enduring inspiration to both Rosetti as her husband William Morris.

So, Jane wrote me a few days ago from London. Having lunch on a boat not far from the Tate where her portraits hang, in between writing her lifestory. A couple of months ago we’ve met in a café just around the corner where I live. She told me about her life and I told her about mine. You see, I identify as much with Lena Dene as my table partner identifies with Jane. Lena is, as you might already know from my other writings, the younger and unknown sister of the fore mentioned Dorothy and in real life was named Isabell Helena Pullen, a cockney girl by birth. Anyway I talked to Jane, or her reincarnation, that day and was struck by the amazing resemblence of her with the Jane from way back then. During the following months I researched for my book and in the process thought of this Jane many times. I saw her portraits hundreds of times. And now I received this wonderful postcard. Seems she’d been thinking of me too in the past time and as she wrote followed my advice, went back to London and started writing. I wonder what will come of that.

Hopefully we’ll meet again soon.

© 2012 Alice (Lena) Anna Verheij

The Improbability of Love.

‘The Improbability of Love’. This is the title of my upcoming novel. In Dutch ‘De Onwaarschijnlijkheid van liefde’. The writing of this novel has just started after over 6 months of research on a few characters who will the protagonists and antagonists in the story. It will be written in Dutch but if possible an Englisch translation will become available soon after the book is finished. How that will be done is yet uncertain but there some possibilities showing their lovely faces at the horizon.

The ‘Improbabilty of Love’ will as it is now no doubt be a step beyond what I have done so far as a writer. The reason why I am certain about that is that this book will have a large autobiographical angle to it. In previous novels I wrote about topics like youngsters being adventurous in a hot air balloon traveling over Africa, women fighting trafficking in Nepal and the Netherlands and in my last work a young refugee woman telling about her past life in a refugee camp and the challenges of integrating in western society and being seperated from her lover who lives in America. All of these topics were about others than myself.

In ‘The Improbability of Love’ I will walk a different path. The story is a tremondous tale about beauty and decay, love and sexuality, art and growing old. It’s told by to women who choose to live together and who developped a deep love for each other, against the morale of the time and against the fate that coloured both of their lives.

Mary, the protagonist of te first part of the book, is one of the most beautiful women in British art at the end of the nineteenth century. She sits as a model for the most famous painters and sculptures but due to her past she remains unknown. Just a face and a body being painted. But she lives and breathes and loves. She falls in love with another female model. And disaster strikes.

Lena, the protagonist of the second part of the book, is also a model. But she has a humble and poor background in contrast with Mary. She is younger and she was born with a defect that defined her life and femininity. Many years after Mary has lost the love of her life, they meet and fall in love.

But can they live together? How do you live as two women, as lovers, together in the first part of the twentieth century in London? And most of all how do you overcome the challenge of sexuality when one is hindered by physical limitations? Lastly, how does life treat you when beauty decays and you grow old.

‘The Improbability of Love’ raises questions about growing old and about female sexuality in a situation where someone cannot love in a traditional manner because of the limitations of a birth defect. It touches upon topics like crossing physical boundaries and accepting that there is more than physical love possible. It discusses the morale of the time between the 1890’s and 1930’s in London. And it takes you on a journey through time to an age where beauty was defined different than nowaways and sexuality was a topic that was only discussed behind closed doors. It takes you to the time of the post Victorian pre Raphaelites, the painters, sculpters, poets and models. To people who lived an avant garde life and a loose sexual morale in contrast to a tied up society. But who were responsible for a new definition of art and aesthetics. But most of all ‘The Improbability of Love’ will let you get acquanted with two beautiful women and their undying love for each other. It will let you become friends with Mary and Lena.

Mary and Lena are not fictituous. They have lived in reality. Many aspects of their characters, their friendships and loves, the social network they lived in, did exist in reality. They can still be seen, portrayed by many famous painters. They are still there, in the Tate Gallery, Buckingham Palace, Leighton House and many musea all over the world. They are still the most beautiful English roses, even almost a hundred years after they died. This story will reintroduce the time of post Victorian and Edwardian art as it was made in Londen, in Holland Park and Kensington.

The challenge for me in writing this novel is that the character of Lena Dene, who is the protagonist in the second part of the book will be transformed and become a mirror of myself. This will make the second part of the book highly autobiographic but in a literary way. Lene experiences what I experience in life. She will ask the questions I ask myself but do not have an answer to. She lives a tragedy similar to the most dark part in my own life. I am not Lena, she is not me. But we share a challenge that has never before be covered in a novel. This alone makes this book a groundbreaking novel that touches on a topic unknown to most people. By this nature it will be the most complicated work I have ever made, but at the same time it is already becoming the summit of literary work until now. And believe me, that a pretty scary thought. Hence the title I’ve chosen.

In the coming months this book will be written and the story of these two women will unfold itself. Next year, you will be able to read it.

© 2012 Alice Anna Verheij