The Photographer's Wife (2014)
The Photographer's Wife (2014)
About book: I stumbled across this book whilst browsing and thought I'd like it and indeed I did. A cleverly constructed dual plot starting in the war and modern day. As the the story progresses we move forward in time until the two plot lines converge. I enjoyed this device and the way the plot was gradually teased out. Loved the twists along the way and couldn't fault it apart from the fact that I didn't really feel the sex scenes added much and I'm not a prude? I did however recommend this to my 87 Year old mum before I realised so I hope she doesn't read it, we might need the Valium! The Photographer’s Wife Nick AlexanderThis is the first novel by this author I have read. I chose it because it was billed as a dual time frame historical novel combined with a contemporary story , which is a genre I quite like. I also like photography. I dislike poorly researched and slap dash history and silly errors. This book had none of those. The book was arty without being farty, psychological without being overly pretentious, and had a certain humour in that the characters do not take themselves too seriously, and when they do it makes for a particular flavour of humour - the book , in places, laughs at itself. I did not give it 5 stars because 5 is for something absolute. This may nearly be there- wold really go to 4.5. It is beyond good but not sure if it will be great- we might know that in 20 years’ time. Alexander is a writerly writer. At first I was irritated by the use of the present tense in all the time frames, but got used to it eventually, and as the book went on, appreciated exactly why the device is (may have been) employed. It gives the story a quality of a commentary as opposed to a narrative, and as such reflects the idea of photo- journalism and a photograph as being a capture of a moment in time, but also as a continuance, a preservation of time. The vignettes , incidents chosen as representative of Barbara and Sophie’s lives are written like the differences in the photographic styles of the characters that become apparent in the exhibition- family snapshot, studio pose, social comment, documented realism, airbrushed, photo-shopped even. The characters also are metaphors of their photographic styles; incisive and enduring, (Barbara) blurred and lacking in focus with the occasional stroke of luck (Tony) contrasting moods trying to find an identity (Sophie) quirky and sophisticated (Diane) professional (Phil and Malcolm). Taking photography as a metaphor (and “ there are no new metaphors in the world” ) the book and all its themes, characters, tropes, ‘secrets’ are pulled together in a masterful manner by the author as the Retrospective Exhibition comes together to reveal more than the sum of its parts. Talking about characterisation- impressive. The locations are included as characters for this reader, also. Places, buildings, landmarks all have something to say, and the descriptions, although never boringly intrusive are comprehensive, like a good photograph, draw you in so that you become part of the essence of the place, the reader is necessary to complete the overall picture. To this reader, it is a real sign of good writing when he or she feels that she is actually necessary to complete the picture. The characters are all incredibly credible. From the random, irrational Tony, for whom we also feel some warmth because he has a quality of warmth about him despite the repulsion we feel at some of his behaviour- to Jonathan, the son who like Barbara has had his creativity repressed by the cruelty of the mediocre,(or at least the jealousy of those who may not be as good at it) insouciant Glenda, fragile yet resilient Minnie, all the peripheral characters fit into their time frames, develop with the time frames, are children of their times but move on with them. Although we are told that Barbara’s home (through Sophie’s eyes) is unchanging and old fashioned and Barbara caught like a fly in amber since Tony's death, or on Kodak paper never changing, it is patently obvious that the pragmatic Barbara never stops coming into higher resolution the longer she is left to develop. Only her daughter is too self absorbed to notice or know her. I suppose under characters I must mention the odious Brett. You feel like screaming at Sophie not to touch him with a barge pole, but hey, that is the loneliness of the 40 something singleton career/arty girl seeing it all rapidly disappearing before it even arrived. The fact he arouses (not) feelings in this reader, feeling of distaste that is, is testament to the author who has drawn a character that could so easily be cliché, but doesn’t fall over that line sufficiently to spoil the rest of the work , and manages to inspire the odd genuine moue in the reader With many novels the reader likes to yell at the characters and sometimes the author for being so dense. In PW, plotwise, you see what is coming, guess the ‘secrets’ early on, but that doesn’t matter because the secrets are not really the point. The Zeitgeist is the point, and how it affects the lives of our characters. As a photographic metaphor, but also a metaphor of the changing mores, a microcosm of post war working class society and post modern cultural and social change. Snapshots, snapshots that were sometimes photographs. There were a couple of points that I had thought the author had overlooked, and just as I wondered where was Glenda in all of this, sneered inwardly thinking I had caught him out, the explanation came, right on cue. Impressive, the way he managed to follow up on every dropped clue, character, aside, without the need for great unveilings. Having said that, I found the ultimate chapter as a finale disappointing. But that’s how life is, especially for poor old Babs- not so much a bang as a whimper. Which in this case was a strength of the commentary. There is so much in this book, hard to say what drives it- character, plot , psychological observation of human frailty, social history, art , journalism, communication- it is all there. I really liked the atmosphere, ambience, the way the author recreated each place and time to perfection and wrapped it around the reader… in the end, the camera may or may not lie, but it says a lot about the photographer. PS I have tried not to give away the plot lines which are important to some analyses I would have liked to mention, so have left some really important themes out of this review so as not to make spoilers... Read it!**********************************************************
enjoyed the book and became involved in the storyline but was disappointed with the ending.
I'm sorry, I found this lacking in umph and it was too predictable.
Really enjoyed this book.
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