Saturday, 21 June 2014

Review: Stand There! She Shouted

Welcome to a weekend of book reviews.  I have two and possibly a third for you this weekend, and I hope to sneak a few more in this month as there is nothing like a good read during a long hot summer.  A quick note about my book reviews - I never review a book I didn't like.  I'm a nice, honest woman, but also I know how damn hard it is to write a book, so my promise to you is that if I love it, I'll review it.  If I don't like it, I won't, even though increasingly I am friends with the authors.  I often get free copies of books now (such are the perks of being infamous) but that makes no difference.  All reviews are honest and the result of ignoring my wifely duties for as long as it took to read it.  Moving on...

Right, first up is a delightful book with one of the funniest titles I've heard for ages.  I bring you Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron...


I didn't know very much about this book when I requested a review copy apart from the fact that I was intrigued by the front illustration.  This is an illustrated biography of Julia Margaret Cameron's life, from her childhood in India and France, through her life at Freshwater, her career as a photographer and her final years in Ceylon.


It is intended for children aged 8 to 12, which means it is perfect for my daughter, Lily-Rose, not least because things like this keep happening to her...


Yes, I know, it's only a matter of time before Social Services pay us a visit for over-Victorianising our child.  The shame.  Anyway, back to the book.  Looking at the front cover of the book, you will see an illustration of Cameron taking this photograph...

Paul and Virginia (1864)
I think Bagram Ibatoulline's illustration of Susan Golman Rubin's text is what really makes this a very special book.  Ibatoulline's ability to show you the scene that made the art is just enchanting.  Look, here's another one...


Annie, My First Success (1864)
Ibatoulline shows you Cameron at work on such a famous image and it helps you understand what was involved in the process, and see the image as it would have been, in front of the photographer.  As I am currently writing my next book which includes a photographer in 1865, I was pleased to find this page of illustrations...


How lovely. And useful.

Don't be put off by the fact that it's a children's book.  You could spend a month reading an adult biography of Cameron and not come away with as many facts as this little gem imparted to me in an afternoon.  It is a charming companion piece to grown-up books because I got a real sense of the woman and her life.  I loved the illustration of her walking down a street with her bangles jingling and a cup of tea, and the story of how children would run away from her and had to be bribed with sweets to pose.

Despite being aimed at 8 to 12 year olds, it has endnotes for the quotes, a decent bibliography and an index.  Bravo to the publishers, Candlewick Press, for realising that children deserve scholarly books and that adults may want somewhere to start in their studies.  Neither is the book a fluffy piece of loved-up biography; you really get the impression that Cameron was as maddening as she was brilliant.  Her strangeness in dress and manners are amply displayed here, as is the fact that she never doubted her own opinion on things.  She is a great role model for girls who need to know it is alright to be different and determined in their art and life.

Julia Margaret Cameron Henry Herschel Hay Cameron
To sum up, this is a lovely book.  If you have a child to use as an excuse to buy it, then do so.  If not, just buy it, it's lovely.  You'll learn something, get to know a fascinating woman and see some of the most charming illustrations you'll see for ages.

You can pre-order this book direct from the publishers here, from Amazon US here, and from Amazon UK here.  It will be released in September this year.

See you tomorrow...

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Many thanks for your comment. I shall post it up shortly! Kx