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Rebecca Lipkin was home-schooled from the age of twelve due to Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a connective tissue disorder that left her bed-bound for many years. Rebecca cultivated a passion for Victorian art and literature from the confines of her room and it was during this time that she first discovered John Ruskin. Recovering enough strength to walk again after five years in bed, she joined the Ruskin Society as its youngest member, aged seventeen, where she furthered her knowledge about Ruskin. Through her own research, she learnt about Ruskin's fascinating relationship with Rose La Touche, a story that, ten years later, formed the basis of this biographical novel. Rebecca pursued a career in journalism, specialising in arts writing and theatre reviews, and she has worked for a number of national publications including The Stage. She has also been the editor of a travel magazine and is currently the Culture Editor of the arts and lifestyle publication, The Arbuturian. Rebecca lives in Bath and is currently writing her second historical novel.
Unto This Last is a historical fiction centred around John Ruskin the Victorian era art critic amongst many other things. Before reading this book I had perhaps heard of Ruskin but didn’t know too much about him. Despite this lack of previous knowledge I found Unto This Last a detailed and interesting depiction of Ruskin’s connection to Rose La Touche. I found that this book was very well written, it seemed to me to be written in the style of a period novel while also managing to maintain a degree of self awareness that I thought allowed for a more critical eye on a range of topics such as mental health and Victorian attitudes in reference to women. I think the relationship between Ruskin and La Touche is quite delicately handled, with Ruskin coming across as almost naïve to me early in the story. I also particularly liked the additional literary nods throughout the book. The title itself is taken from one of Ruskin’s works and the chapter heading “State of Denmark” as a nod to Shakespeare's Hamlet are great examples that I noticed. I think that this book has been very well-researched and written with real insight. I think that anyone who enjoys period novels would enjoy this book without needing to know a great deal about the main character beforehand. The book covers an extended period and also fills in details about Ruskin’s early years and first marriage. I also think this is perhaps a great starting point for any interested reader to do more research on John Ruskin’s life. I would say that Unto This Last is a substantial and yet fascinating read that provides a considered look at the life and work of John Ruskin.