The Woman in the Picture

by James Wilson | Literature & Fiction |
ISBN: 9780571224746 Global Overview for this book
Registered by lakelady2282 of Lake Macquarie, New South Wales Australia on 6/6/2019
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Journal Entry 1 by lakelady2282 from Lake Macquarie, New South Wales Australia on Thursday, June 6, 2019
“The Woman in the Picture” is so multi-layered that it took me virtually the whole book to grasp the implications behind the title of this marvellous novel. The reader is swept along by the mystery straight away. English filmmaker Henry Whitaker is trying to locate the woman in a photograph he now possesses. The photograph of a girl and a letter from her to her fiancee who shot dead Henry’s father in WWI. His companion Captain Smith shoots dead the German and gives the dead German’s field glasses containing both the photograph and letter to Henry, still a child after WWI.
The challenge of this novel (for this reader anyway) is not so much the more recent timeline involving Henry’s daughter Miranda who has never understood her father. This timeline I really enjoyed as she gradually finds out more about what drove him. Instead it is the way we only catch a ‘close-up’ of Henry’s life every two years or so. We can see the challenges and restrictions to his idea of portraying art in British cinema during the inter-war years but we often pick Henry up again midstream which can be very confusing.
I was often left wondering who are these people and what is he working on now? What happened to his previous movie, although I know this is exactly how life is. It picks us up and drops us down, sometimes in a heap.
Two years might have passed but we are suddenly in the middle of a new project. What is constant is Miss Weedon, the secretary of Arthur Maxted’s (Henry’s boss) who is obviously infatuated with Henry. Circumstances throw them together and other circumstances, strange synchronicities threaten to derail Henry’s life and career. Yet somehow he battles on and all the while it is impossible to put the book down.
Germany after the war is captured evocatively:
“In the main street, the breeze feels fresher and you can hear the distant zizz of a big city waking up. After three weeks of seeing nothing beyond the studio and the hotel and the short journey between the, I’d almost forgotten I was in a big city. The sulphurous air is tinged with the smell of roasting coffee and hot bread and sweet pastry. It makes my mouth weep with hunger - not only for food and warmth, but for the promise of the day ahead. No script; no schedule; no sulky Max; no actors’ temperaments; no having to goad them back to work after lunch with their bellies full of suet and cabbage: just, for one, an unfilled page, waiting to be drawn on.”
And then whilst scouting for a film location Henry comes across Herman Street. Hermann Strasse was where he found the girl in the photograph:
“Herman Street. Herman Strasse. The association give me an odd fluttery thrill. I tease myself: Go down Herman Street, and who knows where it’ll take you? To Irma Brucke again? or to some other encounter you’ll never be able to tell anyone about?”
“I go down Herman Street. At the far end looms another part of the gigantic liner, linked to the squalid, everyday, human-scale world only by a spindly gang-plank running from the promenade deck to the quay. The sight of it sends the same adolescent shiver through me that I felt going down into the tube this morning. On my neck, suddenly, I sense the weight of the life I’ve started to make for myself - a knobbly shell, I visualise it as, or else a dimly lit, over-stuffed room full of bulbous shapes that have to be negotiated, reducing every movement to no more than a nudge.”
And so Henry fights to stay true to himself and the “woman in the picture” (don’t presume there is only one) just as his daughter begins to find out more about her father. Highly recommended for those who like to be tested in their reading.

Journal Entry 2 by lakelady2282 at Street Library in Dunbogan, New South Wales Australia on Thursday, June 6, 2019

Released 4 yrs ago (6/6/2019 UTC) at Street Library in Dunbogan, New South Wales Australia


Will be releasing in a few days.

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