The novel

The Surrogate is a novel written in 'monologue intérieur' in which the protagonist Dorothy Dene, a beautiful actress and painting model in late Victorian London, talks about her life. Dorothy, whose real name was Ada Alice Pullan, was a girl of simple origins who would have little chance of an existence in wealth were it not for her stunning beauty. 

Click on the book cover for a fragment.

Dorothy lived and worked mainly in Kensington in London and became the favourite model and muse of the great painter Frederic Leighton, president of the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts. But Dorothy was much more than that. The writer embarked on a search for her life, enchanted as she was by the mystery of this young woman. She passed by the important places in Dorothy's life, visited the houses where she lived, the theatres and studios, became a part-time Victorian and, in a way, melted more and more into the Dorothy of the story.

But what is it that Dorothy had to tell her and why did she force herself into this particular journey through time? Is it true that Dorothy was the model for George Bernard Shaw's Eliza Doolittle in his play Pygmalion? Was she the real 'My Fair Lady'? The only one who can answer that is she herself. 

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The Surrogate is about extraordinary lives, painting and drama, love and sex, about winning and losing and creating and destroying. But mostly about perhaps the most beautiful woman in England who lived at the end of the nineteenth century and about how life always forces a person to change. The writer's search for the reality of Dorothy's life is metaphorical for the search for what drives her herself in life, in which the similarities between that ancient world of more than a hundred and twenty years ago and the present day turn out to be greater than expected. 

The novel is set in the fin de siècle of the nineteenth century, the period between 1860 and the first decade of the twentieth century. The time when Victorian England was emerging from the constriction of industrial development and when women gradually managed to acquire space to thrive in that male-dominated world. A world where poverty and wealth seemed to be in parallel, unconnected, dimensions and where only a few managed to bridge the gap of money and status. A world in which steamships had the role of commercial aircraft today and in which carriages were like the cars of today. Victorian life before the Great World Wars was a life subject to technological developments, old norms and values, as well as social change and a slow shift of power from the rich to the emerging bourgeois middle class. At the same time, it was a time when, within the London art world, some sought new directions while others reveled in the dream worlds of ancient arts and Orientalism. And both movements focused on the beauty of women which allowed some women to ascend in that still oppressive society precisely because of that.

Price: €24,95 (aanbieding, normale winkelprijs €30,59)
ISBN: 978 94 021746 9 4
NUR: 301
Binding style: paperback
Numer of pages: 472
Publisher: WordsStorm. technical realisation: Brave New Books
Available in bookstores, online or directly from the publisher.
Publisher: WoordenStorm in cooperation with Brave New Books

(Music: Légende for violin and orchestra - Frederick Delius, 1895)