Book review: The Photographer’s Wife

Suzanne JoinsonThe smell & heat of Jerusalem rises off the page. Suzanne Joinson has travelled to, lived in and worked in a number of Middle East countries and this shows in her fiction. Here, she creates a Jerusalem so vivid you can feel it on your skin. This is the story of an eleven year old girl, Prue, as she grows up in 1920s Jerusalem with an absent mother and a father who lets her run wild, and the people she encounters. As a child she observes much, lurking in the shadows at her father’s parties. The political tensions swirl as the country recovers from the Great War and the next is anticipated.

Prue’s father, a city architect, employs a British pilot to overfly the area and provide him with reconnaissance photographs. In Jerusalem, the pilot Willie finds Eleanora, the girl he loved and lost in Britain before the Great War. Now his body bears the burn scars of his war, while she lives in Jerusalem and is married to an Arab photographer. So there are political tensions and romantic tensions, both underpinned by the use of photography to reveal or conceal the truth.

In the second strand of the story, Prue is an adult living in England, a sculptor and mother living in a beach hut at Shoreham. When an unexpected visitor arrives, what happened in Jerusalem is examined in detail. This novel is about truth, manipulation of the truth, and in particular the use of photography in the inter-war world of political influence and manipulation. It is not a spy novel, but it at its core is the rule of the British rule, the agitation of the nationalists, and the general exploitation of people for political ends.

What did Prue see and hear? What did she give her friend Ihsan? What is it that Willie wants when he visits Shoreham? And did everyone use eleven year old Prue for their own ends?

This novel demands patience and I think will reward re-reading, some subtle plot points passed me by and so I never fully bought-into the tension at the end. In places it seemed unnecessarily complicated with perhaps one or two characters too many. In particular, the title suggests the story is about Eleanora, but I wanted to read more about Prue. It is really her story so perhaps the title should be ‘The Architect’s Daughter’.

Read more about Suzanne Joinson’s books here.

If you like ‘The Photographer’s Wife’, try these:-
‘The Ways of the World’ by Robert Goddard, the first of a trilogy
‘Diary of an Ordinary Woman’ by Margaret Forster
‘The Girl at the Lion d’Or’ by Sebastian Faulks

‘The Photographer’s Wife’ by Suzanne Joinson [UK: Bloomsbury Circus] Buy at Amazon

And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
THE PHOTOGRAPHER’S WIFE by Suzanne Joinson #bookreview via @SandraDanby

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