Summary and book reviews of The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson

The Photographer's Wife

by Suzanne Joinson

The Photographer's Wife by Suzanne Joinson
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    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2016, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2017, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Davida Chazan

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About this Book

Book Summary

A powerful story of betrayal: between father and daughter, between husband and wife, and between nations and people, set in the complex period between the two world wars.

In 1920s Jerusalem, eleven-year-old Prudence watches her architect father launch an ambitious (and crazy) plan to redesign the Holy City by importing English parks to the desert. He employs a British pilot, William Harrington, to take aerial photographs of the city, and soon Prue becomes uncomfortably aware of the attraction flaring between Harrington and Eleanora, the young English wife of a famous Jerusalem photographer. Palestine has been a surprisingly harmonious mix of British colonials, exiled Armenians, and Greek, Arab, and Jewish officials rubbing elbows, but there are simmers of trouble ahead. When Harrington learns that Eleanora's husband is part of an underground group intent on removing the British, a dangerous game begins.

Years later, in 1937, Prue is an artist living a reclusive life by the sea when Harrington pays her a surprise visit. What he reveals unravels her world, and she must follow the threads that lead her back to secrets long-ago buried in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem, 1920

The man opposite Prue was trying to force a canary through the train window and such a hash he made of it: a yellow fluttering blur, bright black accusatory eyes, and then – pouf – gone. The empty birdcage on the table in front of him was a perfect dome with a wooden swing in its middle suspended for a bird to rock and pretend to fly. She longed to touch it, but didn't dare.

He hadn't remotely noticed her, despite the fact that they were the only two Europeans on the train. Most passengers appeared to be Armenian, Egyptian, Jerusalemites and others Prue couldn't easily identify. She watched him steadily, hoping he would look over at her, but he never did. His cheeks were awfully red and he was sweating despite the cold; she guessed he was English. A framed picture on the back of the train door stated RAPID AND COMFORTABLE TRAVELLING FACILITIES TO ALL PARTS OF PALESTINE with connections to EGYPT, SYRIA, AND BEYOND, wherever BEYOND might be,...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
These discussion questions are designed to enhance your group's discussion about The Photographer's Wife, a novel about an artist who is forced to confront her past, including family secrets and the political turmoil they caused, when one of her father's former employees tracks her down in the late 1930s.


For Discussion
  1. The novel's main protagonist is Prue, yet the title refers to Eleanora. Why do you think Joinson made this choice?
  2. Compare and contrast the way Prue is treated by her father, Eleanor, Ihsan, and the other adults in her life when she is a child. What impact do you think this has on her as she becomes an adult?
  3. Why do you think Willie lets the canary go in the opening scene?
  4. Prue recalls that an ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The first thing you'll notice about this novel is it's absolutely stunning prose...What we end up with is a type of collage of images that dress the plot with different types of textures and fabrics; rich language puts things in light or shadow as the situations warrant them. This is the most compelling aspect of this novel, and probably the main reason I couldn't stop reading it.   (Reviewed by Davida Chazan).

Full Review (756 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

"Joinson's compelling prose reveals the horrors young Prue experiences while living in the unsettled Middle East, showing how it will haunt her as an adult when Harrington comes back into her life in Shoreham.

Kirkus

Starred Review. Atmospheric, romantic, yet refreshingly acerbic -Joinson's timely portrayal of the difficult relationships between different cultures is rivaled by her heartbreaking delineation of the fragile relationships between individuals.

Library Journal

Starred Review. As she did so beguilingly in A Lady Cyclist's Guide to Kashgar, Joinson again creates an atmospheric story that races toward a tense conclusion. This is historical fiction at its most pleasurable."

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

What is it Like to Live in Jerusalem?

Dome of the RockMost of the action of Joinson's novel, The Photographer's Wife, takes place in Jerusalem. Just the name suggests so much. Known as the seat of three major religions, it has gone by the names the City of David, the City of Peace, and even the Holy City. It is also the city that I've called my home for over 30 years. Joinson's book notes how just the mention of the city evokes immediate reactions in people who have never been here. I can certainly attest to that, since I cannot recall the number of times people have asked me "What is it like to live there?" People never think that living here is essentially the same as living in any other famous city. We have a home, jobs and things to do, just like if we lived anywhere else. Many people ...

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