Monday, January 11, 2021

Review of The Photographer by Kevin Marsh

Professional photographer Matthew Cunningham returns home from a successful assignment in Paris and upon realising the loss of his camera case, he panics, not only does it contain expensive photographic equipment, but also hundreds of stored images.

Several days later, his girlfriend Libby Ellis receives an anonymous package containing both photographs of the models Matt works with and also herself.

After a meeting, Libby fails to return home and Detective Sergeant Isobel Woods begins investigating her disappearance. Struggling with internal politics and a boss intent on discrediting her, she is told to solve the case as quickly as possible. However, events take an unexpected turn.

Gradually women connected to Matt are drawn into the nightmare and DS Woods suspects his involvement. Co-operating with the police while secretly negotiating with the abductor, Matt risks incriminating himself and is left with no option but to gamble with the lives of those closest to him.

Paperback, 341 pages
Published November 30 2020 by Paragon Publishing
ISBN13 9781782228127

I am all you have.  I am your link between life and death  You are now my plaything and you will do as you are told. We shall see how well you  perform before I decide what is to be done with you.  

If you are searching for a gripping psychological thriller then The Photographer should be top of your list. Author, Kevin Marsh does his research in writing every aspect of the story, plot, and keeping the tension for the reader.   I know what to expect from one of the author's thrillers. I am a great admirer of how he writes his novels. When it comes to his thrillers, I am on the edge of my seat reading up late at night even when I am tired because I must know what is going to happen next. From the start, I get hooked in to the main characters and if there are couples then I'm invested!  

As a reader you can expect the abductor to be violent and emotionally manipulative with his female kidnap victims. The Photographer has an interesting group of detectives of every rank. I enjoyed finding out in which situations their personalities came out. 

When it comes to psychological thrillers in general, I enjoy getting to know the main and support cast of characters. I read The Photographer as if I was putting together a jigsaw puzzle. What is the connection between abductor and victim/s?  Who is targeted, who is kidnapped and why?  I am always surprised by plot twists which is half the fun of reading a psychological thriller or perhaps its just me! 

The Photographer by Kevin Marsh is available for purchase on Amazon UK

Friday, December 25, 2020

Charles Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) Christmas Recollections: In His Own Words!

Daguerrotype of Charles Dickens by Antoine Claudet, 1852

The Christmas of 1812 was celebrated by John and Elizabeth Dickens (nee Barrow) in the town of Portsmouth on the south coast of England. Frances (known as Fanny) was two years old and Charles was 10 months old. Their father, John, worked as a clerk in the Navy's Payroll Office. John was known to be terrible with finances. Because of this, they often had to move house. By Charles' second birthday, Monday, 7 February 1814, the Dickens family lived in Kent for several years. 

As a young boy, Charles could always be found in a small room, sitting and reading through his father's book collection. According to Charles Dickens unfinished autobiography, 

My father left a small collection of books in a little room upstairs to which I have access and which nobody else in our house ever troubled. From that blessed little room, Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas, and Robinson Crusoe, came out a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time - they, and the Arabian Nights and the Tales of the Geni- and did me no harm; for, whatever harm was in some of them, was not there for me; I knew nothing of it.  It is astonishing to me now, how I found time, in midst of my porings and blunderings over heavier times, to read those books as I did. It is curious to me how I could ever have consoled myself under my small troubles (which were great troubles to me), by impersonating my favourite characters in them... I have been Tom Jones (a child's Tom Jones, a harmless creature) for a week together. I have sustained my own idea of Roderick Random for a month at a stretch, I verily believe. I had a greedy relish for a few volumes of voyages and travels-I forget what, now - that were on those shelves; and for days and days I can remember to have gone about my region of our house, armed with the centre-piece out of an old set of boottrees:  the perfect realisation of Captain Somebody, of the Royal British Navy, in danger of being beset by savages, and resolved to sell his life at a great price... When I think of it, the picture always rises in mind of  a summer evening, the boys at play in the churchyard, and I sitting on my bed reading as if for life. Every barn in the neighbourhood, every stone in the church, and every foot of the churchyard, had some association of its own, in my mind, connected with these books, and stood for some locality made famous in them. I have seen Tom Pipes go climbing up the church steeple; I have watched Strap, with the knapsack on his back, stopping to rest himself upon the wicket-gate; and I know that Commodore Trunnion held that club with Mr. Pickle in the parlour of our little village house. 
Celebrating Christmas during the time of Charles Dickens, would have consisted of decorating the house with ivy, playing games, singing, dancing, eating special Christmas foods and giving gifts only when and if the family could afford it. When Charles was a little boy, Christmas trees were not really known in Britain outside of the  royal court. Therefore, the Dickens family would not have had a Christmas tree and they would not have expected a visit form Father Christmas. Father Christmas was little known in Britain until the Victorian era. Although, Father Christmas could be seen in a traditional mummers' folk dancing he was not the figure that grew out of the legend of St. Nicholas or Santa Claus. Although, in America a popular poem published in 1822, when Charles would have been ten years old, called, Twas the Night Before Christmas, was not popular in Britain until the second half of the nineteenth century. 

In the Dickens household, when Charles was a little boy, the season of Christmas started on Christmas Eve (24 December) until Twelfth Night (6 January). Charles Dickens wrote his first Christmas story, Christmas Festivities, in 1835, where the grandfather tells his grandchildren that he kissed their grandmother under the mistletoe when he was still a boy. Dickens included a mistletoe scene in The Pickwick Papers (1837): 

They all three repaired to the large kitchen, in which the family were by this time assembled, according to annual custom on Christmas Eve... From the centre of the ceiling of this kitchen, old Wardle had just suspended, with his own hands, a huge branch of mistletoe, and this same branch of mistletoe instantaneously gave rise to a scene of general and most delightful struggling and confusion; in the midst of which, Mr. Pickwick, with a gallantry that would have done honour to a descendant of lady Tollimglower herself, took the old lady by the hand, led her beneath the mystic branch, and saluted her in all courtesy and decorum. 
In the December 1850 issue of Charles Dickens's magazine, Household Words, in the article, A Christmas Tree, he shares a memory he had of how his Christmas toys were frightening and confusing: 

I look into my youngest Christmas recollections! All toys at first, I find. Up yonder, among the green holly and red berries, is the Tumbler with his hands in his pockets, who wouldn't lie down, but whenever he was put upon the floor, persisted in rolling his fat body about, until he rolled himself still, and brought those lobster eyes of his to bear upon me-when I affected to laugh very much, but in my heart of hearts was extremely doubtful of him. Close beside him is that infernal snuff-box, out of which there sprang a demoniacal Counsellor in a black gown, with an obnoxious head of hair, and a red cloth mouth, wide open, who was not to be endured on any terms, but could not be put away either...The cardboard lady in a blue-silk skirt, who was stood up against the candlestick to dance, and whom I see on the same branch, was milder, and was beautiful; but I can't say as much for the larger cardboard man, who used to be hung against the wall and pulled by a string; there was a sinister expression in that nose of his; and when he got his legs round his neck, he was ghastly, and not a creature to be alone with. 

When did that dreadful Mask first look at me? Who put it on, and why was I so frightened that the sight of it is an era in my life?... Nothing reconciled me to it... Nor was it any satisfaction to be shown the Mask, and see that it was made of paper, or to have it locked up and be assured that no one wore it. The mere recollection of that fixed face, the mere knowledge of its existence anywhere, was sufficient to awake me in the night all perspiration and horror, with, "O I know it's come! O the mask!". 
Just a few Dickens Christmas excerpts from his books and newspaper journal. 

I hope you all have had a relaxing Christmas, given the circumstances our world is in at the moment. 

Thank you all for your support and interest in my passion for the personal lives of nineteenth century and Victorian era writers, artists, and authors. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Newly Published: The Photographer by Kevin Marsh


Professional photographer Matthew Cunningham returns home from a successful assignment in Paris and upon realising the loss of his camera case, he panics, not only does it contain expensive photographic equipment, but also hundreds of stored images.

Several days later, his girlfriend Libby Ellis receives an anonymous package containing both photographs of the models Matt works with and also herself.

After a meeting, Libby fails to return home and Detective Sergeant Isobel Woods begins investigating her disappearance. Struggling with internal politics and a boss intent on discrediting her, she is told to solve the case as quickly as possible. However, events take an unexpected turn.

Gradually women connected to Matt are drawn into the nightmare and DS Woods suspects his involvement. Co-operating with the police while secretly negotiating with the abductor, Matt risks incriminating himself and is left with no option but to gamble with the lives of those closest to him.

Paperback, 341 pages
Published November 30 2020 by Paragon Publishing
ISBN13 9781782228127

The Photographer is the author's sixth novel and second thriller and I've been waiting a little while for this one to be published. My copy should arrive in a few weeks from the United Kingdom so you can look forward to a review as well. In the meantime, Author, Kevin Marsh offers the reader stories that have gripping plot twists, red herrings, and usually beautiful settings i.e. Scotland, Kent, London as well as the occasional United States mention. 

I am a great fan of reading detective thriller novels. Each author brings a fresh  perspective to their story. Nothing is cut and dry. What I enjoy about Kevin Marsh's writing is how his characters are identifiable; living normal lives, dealing with career struggles, family struggles, dating, marriages, etc. I find his writing so refreshing; he writes with such a detailed perspective, his phrasing is uncomplicated and he is not long winded!  He knows how to keep the tension coming and his sense of humor always comes through. Even when he writes his female victims they are not weak minded but show an inner strength and determination to survive.  There is a realism to his writing and characters that I don't usually find elsewhere.  

Author Biography
Kevin Marsh was born in Canterbury in 1961. He lived and went to school there attending the Technical College, (now Canterbury College), as an apprentice sheet metal worker. During his five years of training he worked in a small local company with his father and brother. In 1981 he was married and moved to Whitstable, (his father's home town).

His first novel, The Belgae Torc was launched on 30th June 2012 with his second book, The Witness, a psychological thriller, being published in March 2013. The Gordian Knot was published the following year with Cutting the Gordian Knot (The Final Solution) in July 2016. The Belgae Torc, The Gordian Knot and Cutting the Gordian Knot are known as The Torc Trilogy and are available as a set. These action adventure historical/modern day novels are quite different from his other books.
The Cellist, a thriller containing characters borrowed from the Witness came along in 2017 and there are two more novels in this series yet to be published.

Whilst holidaying in France a few years ago Kevin and his wife Maria decided to give up working full time, sell their house and move to the beautiful Kent countryside. Kevin now spends his time writing novels and learning to read music whilst occasionally teaching when required.

For more information check out his website:-

If you live in the United Kingdom and Europe,

Friday, November 27, 2020

Virginia Woolf reflects on Christina Rossetti and Annie Thackeray Ritchie from Virginia Woolf's A Writer's Diary


Virginia Woolf by George Charles Beresford
platinum print, July, 1902

What sort of diary should I like mine to be? Something loose knit and yet not slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking  through them.

Christina Rossetti by Lewis Carroll
albumen print, 7 October 1863
National Portrait Gallery

Monday, August 4th

Christina (Rossetti) has the great distinction of being a born poet, as she seems to have known very well herself. But if I were bringing a case against God she is one of the first witnesses I should call. It is melancholy reading. First she starved herself of love, which meant also life; then of poetry in deference to what she thought her religion demanded. There were two good suitors. The first indeed had his peculiarities. He had a conscience.She could only marry a particular shade of Christian. He could only stay that shade for a few months at a time. Finally he developed Roman Catholicism and was lost. Worse still was the case of Mr. Collins a really delightful scholar an unworldly recluse a single-minded worshiper of Christina, who could never be brought into the fold at all. On this account she could only visit him affectionately in his lodgings, which she did to the end of her life. Poetry was castrated too. she would set herself to do the psalms into verse; and to make all her poetry subservient to the Christian doctrines. Consequently, as I think, she  starved into austere emaciation a very fine original gift, which only wanted licence to take to itself a far finer form than, shall we say Mrs. Browning's. She wrote very easily; in a spontaneous childlike kind of way one imagines, as is the case generally with a true gift; still underdeveloped. She has the natural singing power. She thinks too. She has fancy. One could say she is profane enough to guess, have been ribald and witty. And, as a reward for all her sacrifices, she died in terror, uncertain of salvation. I confess though that I have only turned her poetry over, making way inevitably to the ones I knew already.

Anne Thackeray Ritchie
Daughter of William Makepeace Thackeray
Albumen print taken by Julia Margaret Cameron
Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, 1867

Wednesday, March 5th

But oh, dear, what a lot I've got to read! The entire works of Mr. James Joyce, Wyndham Lewis, Ezra Pound, so as to compare them to the entire works of Dickens and Mrs. Gaskell; besides that George Eliot; and finally Hardy. And I've just done Aunt Anny on a really liberal scale. Yes, since I wrote last she has died, a week ago today to be precise, at Freshwater, and was buried up at Hampstead yesterday, where six or seven years ago we saw Richmond buried in a yellow fog. I suppose my feeling for her is half moonshine, or rather half reflected from other feelings. Father cared for her, she goes down the last, almost of that old nineteenth century Hyde Park Gate world. Unlike most old ladies she showed very little anxiety to see one; felt, I sometimes think, a little painfully at the sight of us, as if we'd gone far off and recalled unhappiness, which she never liked to dwell on. Also, unlike most old Aunts she had the wits to feel how sharply we differed on current questions; and this, perhaps, gave her a sense, hardly existing with her usual circle, of age, obsoleteness, extinction. For myself though she need have had no anxieties on this head, since I admired her sincerely; but still the generations certainly look very different ways. Two or perhaps three years ago L. and I went to see her, found her much diminished in size,wearing a feather boa round her neck and seated alone in a drawing room almost the copy, on a smaller scale, of the old drawing room; the same subdued pleasant air of the eighteenth century and old  portraits and old china. She had our tea waiting for us. Her manner was a little distant, and more than a little melancholy. I asked her about father, and she said how those young men laughed in a "loud melancholy way" and how their generation was a very happy one, but selfish; and how ours seemed to her fine but very terrible; but we hadn't any writers such as they had, "Some of them have just a touch of that quality; Bernard Shaw has; but only a touch. The pleasant thing was to know them all us ordinary people, not great men" And then a story of Carlyle and father; Carlyle saying he'd as soon wash his face in a dirty puddle as write journalism. She put her hand down, I remember, into a bag or box standing beside the fire, and said she had a novel, three quarters written, but couldn't finish it. Nor do I suppose it ever was finished; but I've said all I can say, dressing it up a trifle rosily, in The Times tomorrow. I have written to Hester, but how I doubt the sincerity of my own emotion!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A review of The Glass House by Jody Cooksley


What is a life without Art and Beauty? Not one that Julia chooses to live. And so she searches the world for both, discovering happiness through the lens of a camera. 

A fictional account of pioneer photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, and her extraordinary quest to find her own creative voice, The Glass House brings an exceptional photographer to life. 

From the depths of despair, with her relationships strained and having been humiliated by the artists she has given a home to, Julia rises to fame, photographing and befriending many of the days most famous literary, artistic, political and scientific celebrities. But to succeed as a female photographer, she must take on the Victorian patriarchy, the art world and, ultimately, her own family. And the doubts are not all from others. As Julia's uneasy relationship with fame grows into a fear that the camera has taken part of her soul, her search leads her full circle, back to India, in her lifelong quest for peace and beauty. A poignant, elegant and richly detailed debut.

PaperbackFirst290 pages

Published October 5th 2020 by Cinnamon Press
Original Title  The Glass House    
ISBN13    9781788649117  

Julia Margaret Cameron holding her daughter, Julia, 1845
Science Museum group collection

Her face, though plain, was delightful in its earnest animation and she cut a striking figure in her flowing garments as she walked, her head bent in thought as though she did not expect a single eye to appraise her and would not notice if it did. 

The Glass House a debut novel by author Jody Cooksley is a wonderful endeavor to tell a story of a strong, fiery natured independent woman who would become a prominent photographer in her own right responsible for soft focus photography. I admire the author's ambition to attempt to cover the years 1822 through to 1874 of this photographer's life in The Glass House.  However, stated in the afterword, the author explains how she, "has taken a great deal of liberty with their careful facts". Unfortunately, because I am somewhat familiar with Julia Margaret Cameron's life, although not difficult to google, some of the liberties include:  keeping Julia's father, James Pattle, alive by two years; he died September 1845 and it is captured in the chapter, 1848 Calcutta, where father gives daughter, Julia, financial advice as to making a move with her husband. This is a real life part of her life but her father would've had to make a ghostly visit to give this advice.  There are a few more 'liberties' that I won't go into here. 

Instead of chapter numbers there is a year and geographical location which provides a clever chronological timeline.  I enjoyed The Glass House immensely overall. I loved how the author retold the Pattle family story with sisters: Julia, Sarah, and Virginia mainly. She meets mentor and lifelong friend John Herschel, who introduces her to her soon to be husband Charles Hay Cameron in Calcutta. When Julia and husband Charles move to Kensington and Putney, you meet poet Alfred Tennyson and his wife Emily and painter G.F. Watts at Little Holland House where sister Sarah lives with husband Thoby. Such fun reading scenes of artists painting and discussing their works of art in really nice dialogue scenes. 

It wasn't until Part II of The Glass House that the author brings to life scenes of Julia Margaret Cameron asking famous friends, Tennyson, Carlyle, Rossetti to sit for her so she could set their image eternally. Some of Julia's 'famous' maids immortalized are found in The Glass House, Mary Hillier, Mary Ryan, May Prinsep. The problem I had was the author included too many well known artists in so many chapters that after awhile I felt an overload in reading the novel and I love these artists! For readers who are not familiar with Julia Margaret Cameron and her 'menagerie' one could be overwhelmed with it all. 

All of the important aspects of the life of photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron are reinvented within the pages of The Glass House by Jody Cooksley. Finding this novel was a delicious surprise. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading about a free spirited woman whose desire was to capture Art and Beauty in all its forms and Julia Margaret Cameron definitely succeeded.  

NOTE THE GLASS HOUSE on the right behind the maids.
The Idylls of the Village or The Idols of the Village, Oscar Gustaf Rejlander possibly in collaboration with Julia Margaret Cameron, c. 1863, albumen print. Museum no. PH.261-1982 @ Victoria and Albert Museum, London

The Glass House by Jody Cooksley is available worldwide on Amazon and wherever books are sold. 


Saturday, November 14, 2020

Review of Portrait of a Muse by Andrew Gailey


Frances Graham, Edward Burne-Jones and the Pre-Raphaelite Dream

The first biography of Frances Graham, the muse of leading Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones for the last 25 years of his life. Her life is a study in power – artistic, social, political, familial, sexual – and fascinating for being played out from a perennial position of weakness. The tale of a remarkable woman living in an age on the cusp of modernity. 

‘You haunt me everywhere.’ So wrote Edward Burne-Jones to Frances Graham, his muse for the last 25 triumphant years of his life: ‘I haven’t a corner of my life or my thoughts where you are not’.  He drew her obsessively, included her in some of his most famous paintings, and showered her with gifts. Even when she betrayed him to marry, he would return to her.  To him ’all the romance and beauty of my life means you.’ This is the first biography of his muse. 

What makes a muse? The word conjures up for the artist a human cocoon of sexual allure and worship: part inspiration, part lover and protector. Yet however beguiling, demanding and volatile a muse could be, it remained a life surrendered to the art of another. In Victorian England this was especially so with the hierarchies between the sexes so firmly entrenched. The life of a muse to a Pre-Raphaelite artist was no different: Ruskin and Effie Gray, Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal, both powerfully destructive relationships that ended respectively in divorce and death. The one who survived was Frances Graham. She had a restless, irrepressible intelligence, able to mix at her small dinners politicians and aristocrats with writers, artists and the up and coming, be they Oscar Wilde or Albert Einstein. In time, she became the confidante of three government ministers, including Asquith, the Liberal leader.

ISBN: 9781913394479
ISBN-10: 1913394476  
Format: Hardcover 
Language: English 
Published: 20th September 2020
Publisher: Bitter Lemon Press Ltd. 

The Wizard by Sir Edward Burne-Jones, Birmingham Museum, UK, 1896/98

All my life I have known him and admired him, when I was fifteen we used to see much of him and he was the first man of genius I had ever met and that flung open the world. {Frances Graham}

Andrew Gailey has done such a beautiful job on, Portrait of a Muse. As a biography, it is a life to death retelling of the muse of Pre-Raphaelite painter, Sir Edward Burne-Jones.  Bringing a muse out of the shadows into the spotlight is no mean feat. Anyone familiar with Burne-Jones's paintings undoubtedly has seen Frances Graham who later became Lady Horner when she married Jack Horner and lived a long life until 1940. It is quite an accomplishment researching and detailing Frances's life; although growing up in a wealthy family, having a father who was a patron of the arts and very good friends with a few of the Pre-Raphaelite painters including Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Andrew Gailey tells a charming story of a young teenaged Frances going with her father to visit 'Gabriel's' home in Cheyne Walk while her father conversed with him in his studio about upcoming requests and possibilities.  

The reader will get to know Frances very well as she grows up; her personality and passion for art matching her father's, while her mother's a total opposite not liking art at all. Frances was twelve when her father's friendship with Burn-Jones began. William Graham, M.P., regarded Burne-Jones highly as a painter and artist. Burne-Jones was always around the house and he noticed Frances right away never letting on until she was around fifteen years old. She sat for him several times while he drew, sketched, and then painted her throughout his life.  Edward Burne-Jones would have been a married man, a father and in his forties.  According to Frances, 

When I was about 18 or 19, Edward Burne-Jones, who was about 40, and living a quiet life, became my friend and poured into my lucky lap all the treasures one of the most wonderful minds that was ever created.

I was so torn reading, Portrait of a Muse, fully knowing that I would discover further details about the human side of Edward Burne-Jones. I am well aware of two of his affairs (or friendships) but Frances makes it three. According to his circle of friends he had a very sensitive and emotional side to his personality; getting 'infatuated' early on with young girls who struck his fancy. His surviving letters tell in his own words his 'attachment' and his desire to bring his fantasy world to life regardless of how his wife, Georgiana (Georgie) felt about it. Sadly, she was well aware of his 'friendships'. My heart just broke for her. The muses are equally at fault.  Burne-Jones wrote to Frances,

For you fit me through and through and only to look at you is to live splendidly.  Oh dear one, you are so deep in my life that you are a part of the air I breathe-are you jealous of my surroundings? You said yourself that triangular company was perplexing and anxious work. And often I thought of you-for it was as if you and I at the end of life were chatting together over the past.

I would highly recommend, Portrait of a Muse, to any art lover who enjoys reading about beautiful paintings, beautiful people, and the comings and goings of artists during their lives. Frances Graham led a very full life having married, had children, even naming one son Edward. It was a pleasure getting to know her.  

Thank you to Wilmington Square Books An imprint of Bitter Lemon Press for their beautiful hardcover edition to review. 

Portrait of a Muse by Andrew Gailey is available worldwide at online retail stores. 


Saturday, October 24, 2020

My article on the life of Julia Stephen is featured on the blog of Journal of Victorian Culture

 I have been very blessed to have a few of my articles featured and published online in various magazines and journal blogs lately. As a passionate lover of all things Victorian era and nineteenth century, who through my independent research, it feels as if the beginning of my dreams are coming true. 

You can read my article on the life of Virginia Woolf’s mother, Julia Stephen,    Journal of Victorian Culture

Stay tuned for more exciting things to come! 

Review of The Photographer by Kevin Marsh

Professional photographer Matthew Cunningham returns home from a successful assignment in Paris and upon realising the loss of his camera ca...