Christina Rossetti's sonnet makes the perfect epigraph to Julie Hearn's YA novel Ivy (Ginee Seo/Atheneum, 2008), about a laudanum-addicted artist's model in Victorian England:
One face looks out from all his canvasses,
One selfsame figure sits or walks or leans;
We found her hidden just behind those screens,
That mirror gave back all her loveliness,
A queen in opal or in ruby dress,
A nameless girl in freshest summer greens,
A saint, an angel; -- every canvas means
The same one meaning, neither more nor less.
He feeds upon her face by day and night,
And she with true kind eyes looks back on him
Fair as the moon and joyful as the light.
Hearn chooses to quote only these eleven lines, which I found somewhat disconcerting but which makes sense in the context of her novel. Here is the final tercet; it doesn't apply to Ivy (yet):
Not wan with waiting, not with sorrow dim;
Not as she is, but was when hope shone bright;
Not as she is, but as she fills his dream.
[This poem is in the public domain.]
I liked Ivy, especially inasmuch as it reminded me of another modern Dickensian novel, Sarah Waters's Fingersmith. That one's definitely for the grownups. Don't miss it.
And speaking of Dickens: I haven't read any (gasp!). Well, that's not strictly true: I've read A Christmas Carol and Molly and the Magic Wishbone (retold and illustrated by Barbara McClintock; FSG, 2001). Where should I start?