Review 1762: The Christmas Wish

Last year, I saw pictures from The Christmas Wish on TV and thought they were so beautiful that I bought a copy of the book. This little children’s story is illustrated with photos, some of which have been doctored to create the effects. This book is written by Lori Evert, and the photography is by Per Breiehagen.

Anja is a little girl who wants to be Santa’s helper for Christmas. So, after doing her chores and helping out a neighbor, she puts on her skis and heads north. On the way, she is helped by a cardinal, a draft horse, a musk ox, a polar bear, and a reindeer, each giving way to the next as she goes farther north.

The little girl is dressed in a traditional Norwegian outfit, and the photos are just wonderful. The story is simple but sweet. This is a book that could be passed down as a family heirloom.


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Review 1598: The Haunting of L.

In 1927, Peter Duvette accepts a job as a photographer’s assistant in Churchill, Manitoba. The day he reaches the remote town, he meets his boss, Vienna Linn, and Linn’s fianceé, Kala Murie. Kala is in the middle of a lecture about spirit photography, in which the spirit of the deceased person appears in photographs of family or friends. After the lecture, Linn and Murie are getting married.

So, Peter is surprised when that night he ends up in bed with the bride. It’s not too long before Kala tells him that Linn makes money by causing disasters that he photographs for a rich client. So far, these disasters have mostly been train wrecks.

Quirky isn’t exactly the word for this novel, because it is about a truly evil person. But it is certainly hard to predict where it will go. It’s eerie and atmospheric while still presenting a moving love story. This is the third book I’ve read by Howard Norman, and I’ve greatly enjoyed them all.

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Day 1249: Wild Beauty: Photographs of the Columbia River Gorge, 1867-1957

Cover for Wild BeautyAlthough we live in Washington, one of the most beautiful wild areas nearby is the Columbia River Gorge between Washington and Oregon. That’s why, when we saw a program about Wild Beauty on television, we had to have a copy of the book.

Wild Beauty is a collection of stunning photos of the Gorge, taken between 1867 and 1957. The introduction explains how the Gorge was formed geologically and tells about advances in the field of photography during the time these pictures were being taken. Then, the book is divided into five sections, roughly chronological.

Section I features the photography of Carleton Watkins, who made several trips up the Gorge between 1867 and 1885. The introduction explains that the state of photography at the time required him to cart along large panes of glass and a portable darkroom, because the photos had to be developed immediately. Each picture is accompanied by a short caption telling what is known of the photo. This section contains the first known photo of the famous Multnomah Falls.

Section II shows photos by a variety of photographers between 1885 and 1910, when advances in both transportation and photography made it easier to take photos in the Gorge.

Section III is devoted to the work of Lily White and Sarah Hall, whose photographs tended more toward the artistic than the historical. The two women traveled up and down the Gorge on a houseboat between 1903 and 1905.

Section IV features photography along the Gorge’s new scenic highway between 1911 and 1929, including some photos that are hand tinted.

Section V features photos between 1930 and 1957 after dams were built along the river. Many of these are also hand tinted.

This book is full of stunning photographs that provide a historical record of the Gorge. This is an interesting book for people interested in the beauty or history of Oregon and Washington or the history of photography.

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Day 972: The Scottish Highlands

Cover for The Scottish HighlandsI will frankly admit here that I am a massive Dorothy Dunnett fan, and as such, I am eager to read anything she wrote. In this case, it’s an homage to the Scottish Highlands that she wrote with her husband Alastair, illustrated by photographer David Paterson. Alastair Dunnett was a journalist, novelist, and man of many talents. Dorothy Dunnett was an internationally known historical novelist and portrait painter.

This book is beautifully written and has gorgeous photographs. It is oddly organized for this type of work, though. The photographs and the text are presented independently, even though some overlap occurs. First, there is a section of text by Dorothy Dunnett, divided into areas of the Highlands. After that, the rest of the book is divided into the same areas, with Alastair’s text followed by Paterson’s photos. No attempt has been made to integrate the two Dunnetts’ text with each other, and little attempt has been made to integrate Alastair’s text with the photos.

A contrast to this book’s approach is James Herriot’s Yorkshire, where Herriot’s text and photos about the same places appear together. It’s almost as if the editors of The Scottish Highlands were putting together three different books. Still, it does make me want to visit the Highlands. Of course, I already wanted to.

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Day 764: Sweet Caress

Cover for Sweet CaressAlthough I have by no means read everything by William Boyd, Sweet Caress reminds me most of his Any Human Heart, perhaps because it’s the story of one person’s life. This novel is about Amory Clay, a photographer born in 1908. Boyd creates the impression that Amory is a real person (so much so that I googled her twice) by interjecting photos of her life into the novel.

Amory leads an unusual life almost from the start of the novel. Although her father suffers from depression and other problems as a result of World War I, she is so content with her home life that she is upset when her parents send her away to school. Her parents are not well off, but Amory learns later that a legacy from an aunt is dedicated to her education.

Her mother wants her to attend university, but she decides early that she doesn’t want to go. Her favorite uncle, Greville, gave her a camera on her 10th birthday, and she wants to be a professional photographer.

Then a violent incident brings her home. Her father arrives at school unexpectedly to take her to tea. But his intention is to commit suicide, and he doesn’t want to go alone. Amory survives the drive into the lake and even saves her father, who is committed to an institution for a long time.

Soon after, Amory becomes Uncle Greville’s assistant. He is a society photographer, and although Amory does not enjoy this type of work, she must start somewhere. But she takes a risk with an unusual betrothal photo, and its reception ruins her chances. Soon Amory is off to capture the decadent night life of Berlin.

Amory leads an extraordinary life that contains many sorrows and triumphs. She is a war correspondent for both World War II and the Vietnam War, she is attacked by fascists rioting in London, she travels with lesbians to Mexico, she encounters a Charles Manson-like figure in 1960’s California. She almost unwittingly marries a lord and has a family. These are just some of the events of her life, its story punctuated with paragraphs from the “present time” of 1978, when Amory is an old woman.

link to NetgalleyI found this novel involving, although not as much as I did Any Human Heart. For one thing, I wasn’t always convinced I was hearing a woman’s voice, and in no way was this because of Amory’s adventurous life. Also, Amory’s voice is a reserved one, with certain exceptions. Still, it is a fascinating story that manages to cover a great deal of modern history.

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