Former professor of literature at Glendon College, York University in Toronto, Janet Warner's historical novel Other Sorrows, Other Joys is based on the marriage of Catherine Sophia Boucher's life with poet, artist, visionary William Blake . . . "a rich novel of la vie boheme during the 18th century—visions, drugs, free love, the French Revolution, and a marriage that survived it all." —Publishers Weekly (Online, 2002)
Other Sorrows, Other Joys is an absolutely charming novel about William Blake's supposedly meek and ignorant wife, Catherine Sophia Boucher. In her book, Janet Warner reveals a complex and thoroughly engrossing life full of secrets, visions, reason, joy, wise women, angels, Satan as Energy, visiting spirits, Jimsonweed, a man-midwife, mesmerism, Beulah (that state of inspiration), and all the wonderful historical figures of Blake's circle, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Henry Fuseli, Joseph Johnson. Warner, using a kind of guileless prose mirroring her heroine's station in life manages to convey the extraordinary in a most disarming manner. The unsuspecting reader is drawn into a swirl of emotion, ideas, and the great pleasure of a very good read. —Frances Sherwood, Author of The Book of Splendor, Green, Vindication
Warner blends fact and fiction in this debut novel about eccentric artist and poet William Blake, narrated by Blake’s widow, Kate, an artist in her own right… Warner describes Kate’s awakening understanding and acceptance of marriage with a “free love” visionary. Blake instructs his young wife that their love is “deep enough to include others,” and she takes a French lover, Paul-Marc, to counterbalance Blake’s (unconfirmed) dalliances with two provocative women of the period: feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and singer Elizabeth Billington. Warner’s well-researched portrait of the Blakes is set in a detailed dream of late 18th-century England. —Publishers Weekly (October 2003)
Although Blake’s story has the usual artist’s mixture of dueling egos and chronic poverty, in Catherine’s telling the sharp edges are smoothed out under the soft light of affection, achingly so for a widow who receives nightly visitations from her late husband’s affectionate ghost…A pleasant account of one of England’s stranger geniuses…Warner’s first fiction has a good grasp on the atmosphere and idioms of the day… —Kirkus Reviews (October 1, 2003)
Other Sorrows, Other Joys brings to life what often gets lost in the interstices of biography: the collaborators who have lived in the shadow of their brilliant and visionary partners. Janet Warner’s excavation, quiet yet transcendental, mirrors Blake’s art and takes us on a meditative journey. It’s a joy to read.” —Alev Lytle Croutier, author of Seven Houses
Janet Warner has a gift for the telling of fictional detail. Even when she invents dialogue for William Blake, her inventions are persuasively in character. Other Sorrows, Other Joys will be read with pleasure and profit by anyone interested in William Blake, in the life of the spirit, and in the wife of a strange genius. —G.E. Bentley, Jr. author of The Stranger from Paradise: A Biography of William Blake (Yale University Press)
After having graduated from university, I doubted very much that William Blake and I would ever cross paths again. Not that I had anything against the man, but I felt that I couldn’t really relate to someone who was communing on a regular basis with angels and whatnot. Not to mention that his character Urizen and Orc and Los etc, made his poetry feel too much like sci-fi for my tastes. Then along comes Janet Warner and in her charge, Catherine Boucher, a.k.a., Mrs. Blake. I found it intriguing that someone had actually been able to co-exist with Blake and his strange ways. I started reading Other Sorrows, Other Joys and was not disappointed. Janet is a remarkably gifted author and has woven fact and fiction so artfully and in a style so reminiscent of that time, I was immediately enchanted. I can’t say I like Blake anymore for having heard Catherine’s story, but I can say that I liked her! She was a remarkable woman, struggling to keep up with his notions of love and art, all the while trying to keep her own beliefs and needs in the game. She was his unsung hero (doing a lot of his work for him) and many times his muse, but she was no angel. Forgery and a tall dark handsome Frenchman are also part of her story, and if you want the juicy details, you’ll just have to read the book! And to top it all off there’s plenty of Blake’s illustrations and poetry interspersed here and there: just enough to make me feel smug and scholarly all over again. —Inge Siemens, Bookseller, H. B. Fenn
Janet Warner’s Other Sorrows, Other Joys will please three kinds of readers. New Age enthusiasts will like the novel’s description of Blake’s ecstasies; poetry and art lovers will delight in the accounts of his creative process; and romance readers will swoon over the novel’s love stories set in England and France at the end of the 18th century…brilliant. —Mary Soderstrom, Canadian Publishers Weekly (December 2003)
A Canadian Blake scholar who wrote “Blake and the Language of Art,” Janet Warner confesses to a longtime fascination with the poet William Blake’s marriage and in particular with his wife, Catherine. Relatively little is known about the young countrywoman who, despite her lack of education and even intellect, became a true life partner and helpmeet to that passionate visionary of the English Romantic movement. Not only did she actually assist him with his complicated processes of engraving, but she also seems to have functioned as a muse for his poetry. —San Francisco Chronicle (December 21, 2003) Excerpts from an Interview by Paula Shackleton, Co-Founder of Online Bookclub www.bookbuffet.com (November 29, 2003):
Janet Warner, formerly a professor of English at Glendon College, York University, Toronto, is the author of two books. Her first is a heady academic work titled “Blake and the Language of Art”. Her second book, and subject of this interview, is a richly imagined historical fiction told through the heart and feelings of Kate, William Blake’s “perfect wife” and set in the tumultuous eighteenth century. Kate’s independent spirit and talent surface as she struggles for her own identity with in the face of genius, and brings us into their world of bohemia, free love, and inspiration. It deserves a place on your group reading list.
BookBuffet: …The interesting thing is that even though women are so-called liberated now and we think that we have it all figured out, it continues to be a source of conflict for women-whether they are at home or whether they are in the work force, regardless of the amount of help they have, there’s always the guilt, the longing to have one or another and I think the balance is something that women are always going to have difficulty with. I mean this was something that was going on in Blake’s time and here we are still talking about it. …It’s quite racy stuff actually! BookBuffet: …Well I like the way you added these details and innuendo with a delicacy, which seems totally appropriate to the style of the book and genre of the characters. It doesn’t undermine your objective by inserting these details or take it to a different level of literature or historical fiction.
BookBuffet: …It’s a beautiful tapestry of woven facts and stories within the fiction-expertly & sensitively executed.
BookBuffet: …a splendid book which is exactly what book discussion groups are going to enjoy. It has so many opportunities for discussion, so many issues that remain germane to us today: love, ambition, fidelity, infidelity, the use of drugs or pharmacopeias for inspiration and conjecture on to those missing pieces of historical fact that make examining important lives so interesting. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us today---and good luck with the launch of your book. We will certainly recommend it!