Rose’s prose is evocative and captures the beauty of rural Vietnam, tropical Africa, and urban and temperate San Francisco with grace and precision. It also portrays all-too-human dilemmas and confusions with clarity as the novel surveys Coty’s passage through bumptious years, as dark rooms give way to computer manipulation of images, and as tragedy comes to her family. Coty is a remarkable character, her personality, hopes, concerns, and art will grip the interest of readers fascinated by the lives of trailblazing women. The supporting cast, too, is varied and engaging, especially Madeleine, Coty’s crossword solving friend, NaaNaa Joshi, the master carpenter, and Matheo Aubert, another French-speaking priest and a compelling love interest for Evelyn.
Split into four parts, the novel’s form is as bold as its protagonist, leaping over decades, at times giving just a page or two to devastating developments but investing great imaginative energy into the everyday textures of life, such as how a character holds a newspaper or uses a phone. This richness of detail suggests Coty’s way of seeing the world: one crucial image at a time, each suggesting the complex context of a moment, era, or life.
Takeaway: Vivid, formally inventive story of a photographer and her family, over decades.
Comparable Titles: Mira Jacob’s The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing, Chloe Benjamin’s The Immortalists.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A