Sunday, October 1, 2023

My Review of Arresting Beauty by Heather Cooper

‘Beggars can’t be choosers. They really can’t.’

Based on true historical events, Arresting Beauty follows the extraordinary story of Mary Ryan, who was found begging on Putney Heath at the age of ten by the celebrated Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Julia takes Mary into her magnificently bohemian household, to be trained as a maid and educated alongside her own sons, before becoming an assistant, muse and model for Julia in many of her pioneering photographs.

When Julia decides to move to Freshwater in the Isle of Wight, to live close to her great friend Alfred Tennyson, Mary—clever and rebellious—finds herself uncomfortably poised between two worlds—that of a servant girl in one, and in another, artistic assistant to Julia and befriending the likes of Tennyson, battling class and attitudes of the time to fulfil her own goals and perhaps even find love.

A sparkling historic romance novel based on a true-life story.

ISBN-13 : 9781913894160 (Hardback), 9781913894153 (Paperback), 9781913894177 (eBook)

Publication Date: September 30th 2023

RRP: £20.00 (Hardback), £10.99 (Paperback), £5.99 (eBook)

Thank you to Beachy Books for my digital review copy.

Julia Margaret Cameron, “Romeo and Juliet,” c. 1867, Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin. 
Posed by sitters Mary Ryan and Henry Cotton

Henry took his leave of Julia and I said I would show him out. When we got to the front door I opened it for him (force of habit) but he suddenly seized my hand and pulled me outside into the dusk and along to the side of the house, away from where anyone could see us, and took me into his arms and began to kiss me,
 long kisses full of sweetness and tenderness and passion, with the scent of the first roses around us and the moon rising over the sea. He certainly had proved an apt pupil. When he finally left me, reluctantly and with many whispered farewells and murmurings of just-one-last-kiss, to walk across the fields back to his hotel, I stayed there in the darkness for a while, while my heart slowed back to normal. 

Fall into the world of artistic bohemia with photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron, her husband, her children including newest addition, orphaned, Mary Ryan. On Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, at Julia's home, Dimbola Lodge, we feel the hurried buzz of overfrenzied activity as author, Heather Cooper takes us through Mary Ryan's new life. We see her age over the years, with a naivete juxtaposed against her strong sense of self. She becomes a parlormaid rubbing shoulders with the immortal faces of Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning and Julia's neighbor, Poet Laureate, Alfred Tennyson. 

Some of my most favorite chapters occurred between a curious young poetry reading Mary Ryan sneaking outdoors of Dimbola Lodge walking to Tennyson's nearby home, Farringford House. Some very sweet scenes of the laureate sitting under a tree talking to himself and as Mary gets closer, she hears a poem soon to be published, Maud!  Tennyson at Little Holland House equally surprised to see Mary Ryan there.   My favorite is the appearance of twelve year old Lionel Tennyson and Mary Ryan climbing up to the attic of Farringford House to see the stars while Tennyson was entertaining William Allingham.  

If you are curious about Mary Ryan's life with photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron and her clan, there are lots of wonderful chapters between the maids: Mary Hillier and Louisa as they get to know Mary Ryan. Heather Cooper very wisely describes the set up of photographs where Mary Ryan became the sitter and all of the home life situations that occur within the walls of Dimbola Lodge. 

This is a love story at heart, though. So, if you came for the romance its here in page turning beauty. From start to finish you will meet a few of MaryRyan's suitors before Henry Cotton sets his eyes on his true love. It is a tender love story told with a realism that could only come from orphaned beggar girl turned housemaid turned photographic sitter and assistant. 

The epilogue was a nice surprise as Heather Cooper provides more information on what happens to Mr. and Mrs. Henry Cotton after they marry leaving the Isle of Wight for India. Here's little hint as Mrs. Cotton becomes Lady Cotton with her children in this gorgeous painting included in Henry Cotton's memoir, India & Home Memories.

To purchase Arresting Beauty, Beachy Books

For more information about the author visit her website, Heather Cooper

Sunday, July 23, 2023

A book review of The Ghost Ship by Kate Mosse

New York Times bestselling author Kate Mosse returns with The Ghost Ship, a sweeping historical epic of adventure on the high seas.

The Barbary Coast, 1621. A mysterious vessel floats silently on the water. It is known only as the Ghost Ship. For months it has hunted pirates to liberate those enslaved by corsairs, manned by a courageous crew of mariners from Italy and France, Holland and the Canary Islands.

But the bravest men on board are not who they seem. And the stakes could not be higher. If arrested, they will be hanged for their crimes. Can they survive the journey and escape their fate?

A sweeping and epic love story, ranging from France in 1610 to Amsterdam and the Canary Islands in the 1620s, The Ghost Ship is a thrilling novel of adventure and buccaneering, love and revenge, stolen fortunes and hidden secrets on the high seas.

Imprint Publisher  

Minotaur Books

ISBN  9781250202208    

How I miss the lilt and sway of the waves beneath my feet, the buck and the tilt. The solitude of the night-watch and the black sky scattered silver with stars. The endless, treacherous, beautiful shifting water.

Such freedom, such liberty.

In the Casas Consistoriales, the Town Hall, scribes will be preparing their paper and ink. The priest will be sharpening his prayers and preparing to hear my confession, expecting repent- ance and a desire for absolution. I shall not give him that satisfaction.

Friends, it was my grandmother who taught me the importance of telling one’s own story, of not allowing the words of others to stand for us. Lies that snare and trap. So, in these last moments, I have a final question to put before you, a question I find I still cannot answer for myself.

Is a murderer born, or is she made?

The Ghost Ship is the third volume in The Joubert Family Chronicles by Kate Mosse, also serves as a stand alone novel. It is a swashbuckling novel where adventures of all kind can be found upon the high seas. What is diferent about, The Ghost Ship is Kate Mosse has written the novel from the female perspective. Protagonist, Louise Joubert, grew up amongst sea captains and pirates. Her story is told through flashback scenes where you discover her childhood and her yearning to command her own ghost ship. 
The images swirl and merge. Looking up in wonder at the sails and masts, the lattice of rigging. Looking down at the sea, choppier now, white waves breaking as the oars carve a path through the water making diamonds of green. Remembering her grandfather wiping the salty spray from her face with his handkerchief. 
Strong arms grasp her around the waist, pass her up from hand to hand on the rope ladder, until, she, too, is standing on the deck. Her clogs are unsuitable, but Louise quickly finds her balance. She is a natural, they say. Touching the rigging, the polished taffrail, the comforting thickness o the rope. Her grandfather lifts her up to ring the ship's bell and she runs the length of the deck, stern to bow, without slipping.
As a reader of The Joubert Family Chronicles, it was wonderful to read about Louise's grandparents from Book two, The City of Tears, Minou and Piet who are alive and well while their grandchild is growing up. I was so touched to read the chapters of Louise caring for her elderly grandmother along with beautiully written letters from grandmother Minout's diary. Kate Mosse has such a touching way of writing and capturing the genuine intimacy between married couple Minout and Piet that it brought me right back to, The City of Tears.
Feeling every one of her sixty-eight years, she raised herself on one elbow, and gazed at Piet sleeping beside her. His beloved features, grown white with age, were as familiar to her as her own. Against all odds, they had been by one another's side for nearly fifty years. Together they had faced grief and despair, they had lost their way and been reconciled once more. Blessed with three children and three grandchildren, they had suffered, but kept going. Companions-in-arms, they had stood firm against the vicissitudes of life, the evils of war and the deaths of those they loved. They were old, but they had somehow kept living when those around them stumbled and fell. They had survived. 
Louise Joubert finds love at sea aboard the Old Moon with a very interesting and mysterious man, Gilles, who has a childhood love and understanding of tarot cards and ability to read them quite well and effectively. I found this a very nice touch to the novel. 
So, if you are in the mood for a female centered adventure novel with a page turning story of family love through the ages and how women go against the rule of man.  
To purchase the United States edition of The Ghost Ship,  Amazon

Thursday, June 8, 2023

What am I currently reading? Windmill Hill by Lucy Atkins

One night in a remote hunting lodge with a Hollywood director causes an international scandal that wrecks Astrid’s glittering stage career, and her marriage. Her ex-husband, the charismatic Scottish actor Magnus Fellowes, goes on to find global fame, while Astrid retreats to a disintegrating Sussex windmill.

Now 82, she lives there still, with a troupe of dachshunds and her long-suffering friend, Mrs Baker, who came to clean twenty years ago and never left. But the past is catching up with them. There has been an ‘Awful Incident’ at the windmill; the women are in shock. Then Astrid hears that Magnus, now on his death bed, is writing a tell-all memoir. Outraged, she sets off for Scotland, determined to stop him.

Windmill Hill is the story of two very different women, both with painful pasts, and their eccentric friendship – deep, enduring, and loyal to the last.

ISBN 10: 1529407923  ISBN 13: 9781529407921
Publisher: Quercus,


Lucy Atkins is an award-winning author and journalist. She is a book critic for the Sunday Times and the Guardian, teaches on Oxford University’s Creative Writing Master’s degree and has judged the Costa Book Awards. She has written for publications including the Guardian, the Times, the Telegraph, the Times Literary Supplement and many UK magazines. Her third novel, The Night Visitor, has been optioned for television. Her most recent novel, Magpie Lane, was chosen as a book of the year by BBC Radio 4’s Open Book, the Guardian, the Telegraph and Good Housekeeping magazine.

To purchase a copy of Windmill Hillquercus books

For more information about the author,  Lucy Atkins

Saturday, June 3, 2023

A Review: The Fascination By Essie Fox

Victorian England. A world of rural fairgrounds and glamorous London theatres. A world of dark secrets and deadly obsessions…

Twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are identical in every way, except that Tilly hasn’t grown a single inch since she was five. Coerced into promoting their father’s quack elixir as they tour the country fairgrounds, at the age of fifteen the girls are sold to a mysterious Italian known as ‘Captain’.

Theo is an orphan, raised by his grandfather, Lord Seabrook, a man who has a dark interest in anatomical freaks and other curiosities … particularly the human kind. Resenting his grandson for his mother’s death in childbirth, when Seabrook remarries and a new heir is produced, Theo is forced to leave home without a penny to his name.

Theo finds employment in Dr Summerwell’s Museum of Anatomy in London, and here he meets Captain and his theatrical ‘family’ of performers, freaks and outcasts.

But it is Theo’s fascination with Tilly and Keziah that will lead all of them into a web of deceits, exposing the darkest secrets and threatening everything they know… 

Source: Review copy
Publication: 22nd June 2023 from Orenda Books
PP: 300
ISBN-13: 978-1914585524

Many thanks to Orenda Books for my eArc!

'The evening nightingales are singing. 
The month of August lit with gold;
I still keep the rose you gave me,
I watch its red silk heart unfold.

The breath of rose, the sound of bird's song
Are ever tangled with romance.
Tis my pleasure to remember;
The day when you first came to me...'

The Fascination is filled with darkness and depravity at every turn where children like Theo and twin sisters Keziah and Tilly Lovell are at the hands of parents and grandparents who are supposed to care for them and guide them through life. Well, forget it. Throw all sense of sympathy, empathy and sensitivitiy out the window while you read this Victorian gothic kaliediscope of a novel. 

After reading and reviewing all of the author's works, Essie Fox has done it. I am finally speechless and in awe of what she has created. The Fascination is beautifully written about two different families, The Seabrook's and The Lovell's living their lives without any real love and care from anyone around them. If only their loved ones could accept them for their differences instead of profiting off of them, it would be a different novel.

The Fascination was a very emotional novel to read. Definitely, a page turner. I loved the atmosphere and descriptions of the gardens and walking outside and around Lord Seabrook's home. In the end, all I wanted to do was scoop up all the children and take care of them.  However, what made me smile was how Essie Fox used excerpts of Brothers Grimm, Snow-White and Red-Rose a beautiful fairy tale throughout chapters of the novel. I did not miss the description of a painting by Millais on the wall, mentions of Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins' A Woman in White. 

For more information or to pre-order a copy, Orenda Books

Monday, April 10, 2023

Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story by Jan Marsh - A review

Elizabeth Siddal is remembered as a Pre-Raphaelite supermodel and the muse and wife of Gabriel Rossetti. She is cast as a tragic heroine much like the Ophelia she modelled in the renowned Millais painting. But Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story overturns this myth. ‘Lizzie’ is presented as an aspirational and independent woman, artist and poet who knew what she wanted and was not afraid to let it be known.

With extraordinary stories, including previously undiscovered details of Siddal’s journeys across the UK and to the south of France, Jan Marsh reclaims Siddal’s narrative from the historical record. She brings new perspective to the post-natal, mental trauma Elizabeth suffered after a stillbirth. Furthermore, she casts new light on the renowned story of Siddal’s grave being exhumed for Rossetti’s poems.

Jan Marsh explores the finer, little known details of Siddal’s life, including her four months at art school in Sheffield, which Rossetti’s brother always denied. In addition to this, few will know how Siddal was often regarded as difficult and ungrateful.

A beautiful production, this illustrated book contains many of Siddal's own images which feature alongside Rossetti's at Tate Britain.

Historical record tends to forget or misremember women, but with Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story, Jan Marsh forces us to take a closer look and see a very different picture. Siddal was not passive and lacking in agency; she was a woman, artist and poet with a strong mind, flourishing career and an admirable talent.

Jan Marsh is a biographer and curator who pioneered the feminist understanding of women in the artistic circle around the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. She followed this with individual life stories and scholarly studies that bring hitherto neglected women into the historical record, together with ground-breaking exhibitions, notably Pre-Raphaelite Sisters at the National Portrait Gallery in 2019-20. In Elizabeth Siddal: Her Story she presents a radical new account of the celebrated Pre-Raphaelite model and artist, who died tragically young.

Publisher:  Pallas Athene

Publication date: 6 April 2023

Hardback – 165 x 198 mm – 158 pages

101 colour and black-and-white images

Elizabeth Siddal by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

There was an English dinner here on Christmas Day, ending with plum-pudding, which was really very good indeed, and an honour to the country. I dined up in my room where I have dined for the last three weeks on account of bores. First class, one can get to the end of the world but one can never be alone or left at rest.  (Elizabeth Siddal writing her travel memories in a fit of boredom from Hotel des Princes, France, 1855).

Elizabeth Siddal Her Story is an illustrated look at the life of Elizabeth Siddal and those around her before and after meeting the men of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. The paintings and drawing by herself and her husband, painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti are currently being shown in the Tate Britian exhibition, The Rossettis. 

"Lizzie" needed an upgrade shall we say; a much needed complete study of her life and Jan Marsh is just the woman to do it.  Her findings from researching the Siddall family to Elizabeth's first working jobs, to being discovered, to becoming a sitter, then a muse to finding love with Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her illness, her weight, her looks. Was she just very independent in nature or was she doing her best to serve as inspiration for all these creative men!  It must have been hell.

Jan Marsh has debunked a very long standing myth, she has shared two letters Elizabeth Siddal wrote herself that give insight into Elizabeth's wonderful sense of humor. Jan Marsh writes about the relationship with John Ruskin, her trip to France, as well as what inspired Elizabeth Siddal to writer her poetry and paint her paintings. 

You will travel with The Rossettis (Gabriel and Lizzie) as they travel through England meeting some of his dearest artist friends and why Elizabeth did not meet all of her husband's immediate family.  Sharing artisitic experiences between the two I found to be very romantic, i.e. Rossetti's many poems about Lizzie but to get a glimpse into Elizabeth's poems and paintings while in love with Gabriel was just beautiful.

When it came to the sad end of Elizabeth's life, Jan Marsh uses  her paintings to support the well known surviving documentation surrounding her death, her burial, her funeral, etc. 

I will put the link to the publishing company for ayone who would like to purchase, Pallas Athene

Saturday, March 25, 2023

My Review of The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding by Holly Ringland

On the afternoon that Esther Wilding drove homeward along the coast, a year after her sister had walked into the sea and disappeared, the light was painfully golden.

The last time Esther Wilding's beloved older sister Aura was seen, she was walking along the shore towards the sea. In the wake of Aura's disappearance, Esther's family struggles to live with their loss. To seek the truth about her sister's death, Esther reluctantly travels from lutruwita, Tasmania to Copenhagen, and then to the Faroe Islands, following the trail of the stories Aura left behind: seven fairy tales about selkies, swans and women, alongside cryptic verses Aura wrote and had secretly tattooed on her body.

The Seven Skins of Esther Wilding is a sweeping, deeply beautiful and profoundly moving novel about the far-reaches of sisterly love, the power of wearing your heart on your skin, and the ways life can transform when we find the courage to feel the fullness of both grief and joy.

Product Details
ISBN: 9781460759370
ISBN 10: 1460759370
Imprint: 4th Estate AU
On Sale: 30/09/2022
Pages: 560

As she walked, the presence of the sea permeated her senses. It was in front of her, surrounding her, but also in the wind, the salty weight of it. It saturated her senses, catching the light like pieces of mirror, glittering its light on her skin, its taste on her tongue, its heaviness in her lungs and hair. Her mouth watered with longing; there had been a time when barely a day would go by in Salt Bay that she wasn’t in the sea.

'Sisters of Seal and Swan Skins! Seala and Eala!'

The number 7 held a lot of power for Aura...Seven skins…seven tattoos…seven water stories in Aura’s journal.  

Jack and Freya Wilding love their daughter, Aura; a spiritual Australian family living a very different existence. Freya is a tattoo artist, a free spirit herself while dad, Jack is the rock of the family with a very loving heart.  How were they to know the affect of connecting to Celtic and Danish folklore would have on first born daughter, Aura. 

Aura and little sister Esther nicknamed Starry by friends and family were inseparable. They had celestial and mythological stories to bind them together along with 80s punk music mixed in with the magic of Stevie Nicks. However, there were family secrets at the heart of the Wilding family. You see, not everything twinkled like stardust.  A tragic connection between Freya and Aura and Aura and her best friend, Nin was never spoken. It drove Aura away to Copenhagen and The Faroe Islands where she kept a journal of 'seven' stories that read like a mythological road map. For example, the Danish song, Liden Gunver and a book of fairytales entitled, 'Agnete and the Merman' by Helen Nyblom illustrated by Swedish fairytale artist John Bauer.  

When Aura returns home to her family in Australia she is very different.  Her parents can sense something's wrong but they never can seem to reach her.  It isn't until the family tragedy occurs when Aura walks into the sea and disappears. Her parents, sister and close friends, are heartbroken and grieving. They convince baby sister, Esther to take Aura's journal and retrace her steps throughout Copenhagen and The Faroe Islands. 

Without giving anything else away, what author Holly Ringland has done is tell Aura's story through connecting the mythology and folklore tales of family trauma with the Wilding family's unspoken secrets entwined in their own grief.  

Holly Ringland is a masterful storyteller. I loved the happy moments between the Wilding family and circle of friends that centered around the kitchen table with wonderful aussie food, drinks, and yummy desserts. Especially beautiful were the incredible descriptions of the beauty of Australia's beaches, plants, and blue gum trees. Traveling through Copenhagen and The Faroe Islands with Esther, I felt like I was there.  It all sounds incredible to this Native New Yorker.

For more information and to purchase the book go to the author's website, Holly Ringland

Monday, March 13, 2023

My review of Julia Margaret Cameron Arresting Beauty by Lisa Springer, Marta Weiss - Victoria and Albert Museum



Julia Margaret Cameron (1815–1879) was one of the most innovative and influential photographers in the history of the medium. Though criticized in her own lifetime, her distinctive use of close-up and soft-focus is now considered groundbreaking. The Victoria and Albert Museum’s extensive holdings represent the largest collection of her work anywhere in the world, newly united with treasures from the Royal Photographic Society. Drawing on this unparalleled collection, this book presents an engaging introduction to Cameron’s life and work through more than 100 of her most important photographs. Three sections explore Cameron’s unique artistry and range: from her early experiments in the art of photography, to her pioneering portraits of public figures such as Charles Darwin and Sir John Herschel, to her allegorical compositions and the artistic tableaus she created to illustrate Alfred Tennyson’s Idylls of the King. Also including pages from the original manuscript of Cameron’s autobiography and insightful explanatory texts, Arresting Beauty tells the story of her pioneering career and lasting legacy in one accessible and beautiful volume.


Lisa Springer


Lisa Springer is Curator of Touring Exhibitions at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Marta Weiss


Marta Weiss is Senior Curator of Photographs at the Victoria and Albert Museum. She is an expert on nineteenth-century photography and has published widely on the subject.


Publisher:  Thames & Hudson USA
  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 208
  • Artwork: 126 illustrations
  • Size: 7.1 in x 9.1 in
  • Forthcoming: April 4th, 2023
  • ISBN-10: 0500480869
  • ISBN-13: 9780500480861

julia margaret cameron photographed by
her son, Henry Herschel Hay Cameron, 
albumen print, 1870.

It is with effort that I restrain the overflow of my heart and simply
state that my first lens was given to me by my cherished departed 
daughter and her husband, with the words, 'It may amuse you,
Mother, to try to photograph during your solitude at Freshwater.'

The gift from those I loved so tenderly added more and more
impulse to my deeply seated love of the beautiful, and from the first
moment I handled my lens with a tender ardour, and it has become
to me a living thing, with voice and memory and creative vigor.
Julia Margaret Cameron, Annals of My Glass House

Inside the pages of, Julia Margaret Cameron Arresting Beauty amongst the pictorial explorations of her life, are a few pages of the original manuscript of Annals of My Glass House written in Julia Margaret Cameron's own hand in 1874 now a part of the RPS - Royal Photographic Society Collection and transferred to the V&A.

I gasped out loud as I turned the pages and saw and read Julia Margaret Cameron's own words, in her handwriting. I felt as if I had stumbled into her bedroom at Dimbola Lodge, her home of Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight in the United Kingdom. Some curious busybody going through her things all the while knowing its wrong but not being able to tear myself away. Her voice ringing in my ear, her feelings about her albumen prints, her life and loved ones abundantly clear.  This is how it feels to turn the pages of this beautiful book that Lisa Springer and Marta Weiss have so lovingly put together in Arresting Beauty.
Annie, 1864, 
albumen print by julia margaret cameron

The first part of Arresting Beauty is entitled, 'Beauty That Came Before Me' beginning with the first albumen print Julia ever took of sitter, Annie Philpot, a neighbor's daughter. It took several hours to complete and several sweets to get the child to remain still for many hours. Mrs. Cameron remarked, 'I was in a transport of delight. I ran all over the house to search for gifts for the child. I felt as if she entirely had made the picture I printed, toned, fixed and framed it, and presented it to her father the same day.' 

These are the beginning years of photography for Julia Margaret Cameron where she experimented with portraiture by seeking out Old Master paintings from the Italian Renaissance as well as Parthenon Marbles. Julia found beauty all around her whether it be her neighbors down the road or a face captured in a painting before her time. 

Giotto Arena Chapel The Virigin Mary and Elizabeth embrace - Julia Margaret Camerons version, 1864

The seconed part of Arresting Beauty is entitled, 'Poets, Prophets,  Painters and Lovely Maidens.' Julia begins photographing 'her friends and neighbors' around Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, where she lives in  her home, Dimbola Lodge, a nod to her plantations in Ceylon. Julia begins with a grand poet of her day, Alfred Tennyson.  She also photographs astronomer and friend, Sir John Herschel as well as her housemaid, Mary Hillier and model, Emily Peacock.

A Tennyson, 1865, albumen print by julia margaret cameron

'I took another immortal head, that of Alfred Tennyson and the result
was that profile portrait which he himself designates as the "Dirty Monk", states Cameron in Annals.
Tennyson was Cameron's neighbor and a loyal friend. By 1850, when she first came to know him,
he was a widely admired public figure who had been appointed Poet Laureate. Cameron considered
him a hero and created many portraits of him over the years.

Mary by Julia Margaret Cameron, 1873
Mary Hillier one of Julia's housemaids

This portrait of Mary Hillier emphasizes her hair falling in waves over her shoulder,
recalling the flowing hair made famous by Pre-Raphaelite painters like Dante Gabriel Rossetti the decade before. A review of Cameron's photographs in the Intellectual Observer in February 1867 
drew attention to her skilful rendering of hair. 
'Beautiful hair, left free, is one of the most poetic of nature's  productions...very subtle and sympathetic 
are the combinations of light...which defy the efforts of ordinary artists to reproduce.'

The last section of Arresting Beauty is entitled, 'Voice and Memory and Creative Vigor.'  Julia loves storytelling through depicting characters and scenes from literary sources including, Shakespeare, Browning and Tennyson.

Prospero and Miranda, 1865

This was the photograph that allegedly prompted Henry John Stedman Cotton to propose 
to Mary Ryan. Cameron writes in Annals that 'entirely out of the 
Prospero and Miranda picture sprung a marriage which has I hope 
cemented the welfare and wellbeing of a real King Cophetua who in the Miranda saw
the prize which has proved a jewel in that monarch crown.' 
In a legend popularized in verse by Tennyson, Cophetua is a king who falls in love 
with and marries a beggar. 

Browning's Sordello, 1867

Cameron was proud of Ryan and Cotton's cross-class romance and
posed them together on several occasions. Here they play
characters from a narrative poem by Robert Browning, Sordello, published in 1840.
Cameron inscribed a verse on one print, ending with the lines...
'she/Unbound a scar and laid it heavily/Upon him, her neck's warmth and all.'

My absolute favorite part of Arresting Beauty is the last section which includes Idylls of the King and Other Poems, vol. I by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Photographed in its entirety by Julia Margaret Cameron including her own handwritten pages of various sections  of 'Idylls.' 

In 1874, Alfred Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, invited Cameron to make photographic illustrations to Idylls of the King, his series of narrative poems based on the legends of King Arthur. After her large photographs were published as small woodcut copies, Cameron decided to  produce an edition illustrated by original photographic prints accompanied by handwritten extracts from the poems printed in facsimile. She claimed to have made as many as 245 exposures to arrive at the 25 she finally published in two volumes in 1874 and 1875.

My favorite photograph is Merlin and Vivien as depicted by Julia Margaret Cameron 
(sitters:  Agnes Mangles standing with loose hair standing in profile and Charles Hay Cameron (Julia's husband) facing her with shining silvery white long hair).

If you are just interested in studying Julia Margaret Cameron's photographs then Arresting Beauty is a wonderful place to start getting to know the photographer herelf through her work, love and passion for creating beauty. 

Thank you so much to the folks at Thames and Hudson USA for my beautiul review copy.
I will add it to my varied research collection of books.

For more information and to purchase a copy, Thames & Hudson USA

My Review of Arresting Beauty by Heather Cooper

‘Beggars can’t be choosers. They really can’t.’ Based on true historical events,  Arresting Beauty  follows the extraordinary story of Mary ...