A riveting story of talent and the price it exacts, set in a richly imagined Victorian England
Called the most promising artist of his generation, handsome, modest, and affectionate, Richard Dadd rubbed shoulders with the great luminaries of the Victorian Age. He grew up along the Medway with Charles Dickens and studied at the Royal Academy Schools under the brilliant and eccentric J.M.W. Turner.
Based on Dadd’s tragic true story, Mad Richard follows the young artist as he develops his craft, contemplates the nature of art and fame — as he watches Dickens navigate those tricky waters — and ultimately finds himself imprisoned in Bedlam for murder, committed as criminally insane.
In 1853, Charlotte Brontë — about to publish her third novel, suffering from unrequited love, and herself wrestling with questions about art and artists, class, obsession and romance — visits Richard at Bedlam and finds an unexpected kinship in his feverish mind and his haunting work.
Masterfully slipping through time and memory, Mad Richard maps the artistic temperaments of Charlotte and Richard, weaving their divergent lives together with their shared fears and follies, dreams, and crushing illusions.
Lesley Krueger is a novelist and screenwriter. Richard Dadd’s first cousin-in-law five times removed (if she has the genealogy right), Lesley drew on family information unknown to biographers in writing Mad Richard. The author of six books, she lives with her husband in Toronto where she’s an avid member of a women’s hockey league and a writer-mentor at the Canadian Film Centre. Find her online at LesleyKrueger.com.
“In this remarkable piece of historical fiction, Krueger (Drink the Sky) imaginatively delves into the life of Richard Dadd . . . The two story lines . . . effectively juxtapose Dadd and Brontë, two very different people who travelled in similar circles during the same era and, more importantly, who were both entirely invested in what it means to be an artist. This question anchors the novel, adding depth and dimension to a terrific read.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review>
“Krueger’s portrait of artists as young men and women is alive with wit and rebellion — an aesthetic vivisection of the young Victorian age.” — Globe and Mail
Screenwriter and novelist Krueger (The Corner Garden, 2003, etc.) uses her visual artistry to good effect in vividly portraying a squalid London in which talent doesn’t always lead to fame or fortune. Exploring the vibrant cultural awakenings of the Victorian age, Krueger intriguingly populates her scenes with the artistic glitterati of the day . . . An entrancing portrait of artistic minds confounded by the Victorian Age.” — Kirkus Reviews
“There is much to ponder in this elegant novel about the potentially catastrophic emotional toll of art, the irrational nature of love, the solitude of heartache and what happens when one life touches another, however briefly.” — Toronto Star
“By portraying artists before and after their most significant achievements, Krueger is able to tease out a moving narrative of fame, beauty and what an artist owes his or her craft.” — Shelf Awareness for Readers
“A wonderfully elegant novel that led me back to rereading Jane Eyre and a first time go-around with her other two noted novels, Shirley and Villette, this one enthralled me.” — Owen Sound Sun Times
“Krueger’s research is evident in every paragraph: from the use of authentic slang to richly sketched portraits of the lives of the era’s rich and poor, the book confidently transports the reader to another time.” — Quill & Quire
“The knitting together of Charlotte Brontë’s and Richard Dadd’s different trajectories worked like a dream. I was enthralled.” — Terry Gilliam
“Characters from all sections of society are well drawn, believable and paint a colourful picture of the diversity in Victorian Britain . . . Historical Fiction at its best.” — Book Literati
“This is a beautifully written book that succeeds in weaving together the stories of these two very different people, who have in common ambition, a love of art, and an ambivalent feeling about fame. Charlotte’s story is bittersweet and grounded in reality. Richard’s is horrifyingly tragic and surreal. The author does a wonderful job of presenting his descent into madness in a vivid, realistic, and sympathetic way.” — Susan Coventry’s Blog
“A wonderful read that allows readers to savor moments, thoughts and questions long after the last page is turned.” — I Am, Indeed
“Smart and satisfying.” — Fine Books Magazine
“She really does have a sophisticated writing style. It’s remarkable how through some research and oral history Lesley Krueger was able to piece together this story.” — Lost in the Rain blog
“Fascinating and richly detailed . . . Mad Richard is grippingly told and replete with evocative descriptions.” — CNQ
“Lesley Krueger—a distant relative of the Victorian era painter Richard Dadd—creates a generous and thoughtful portrait of the once-promising artist’s descent into madness, murder, and imprisonment in London’s Bethlem Royal Hospital’s psychiatric facility, infamously known as Bedlam.” – Prairie Fire