Monday, October 26, 2009

Book Review: A Flickering Light

Jane Kirkpatrick’s novel, A Flickering Light, was inspired by her grandmother’s life and characterized by the author as biographical fiction. The author’s typical attention to detail and thorough research make this a story to remember.

Jessie Ann Gaebele’s love of photography dominates her life. Nothing pleases her more than to roam the countryside with her camera to capture Minnesota landscapes. Boys her own age bore her; homemaking is nothing but a series of chores. What could be more fascinating than finding just the right angle, telling stories with her images? At nearly sixteen, Jessie is through with school, but must find work to contribute to her family’s finances.

Jesse applies for a job as a photographer’s assistant. Luckily, the job suites her interests more than some jobs she’s held, though for her, portraits were not as satisfying as the spontaneity of nature photography. Soon though, she finds her niche in the shop, and under the guidance of her employer, Mr. Bauer, shows unusual talent for studio photography. Usually considered a man’s profession, photography in the early 1900's had toxic hazards with explosive powders and darkroom chemicals, including mercury, that could cause serious and recurring illness and even death.

Ms. Kirkpatrick has an extraordinary ability to draw readers into the world of her characters. In A Flickering Light, we recognize Jesse as an emerging young woman, dedicated to her unusual profession, but who soon realizes she can’t control her attraction for Mr. Bauer. We sympathize with Mr. Bauer’s struggle dealing with his children whom he loves, his effort to appease sour and often ill Mrs. Bauer, and the guilt he bears for the tenderness he feels toward Jesse.

Not only is the author adept in drawing us into this complex story, we also are brought into the world of photography, not only its creative nuances, but also the challenges and mechanics of the profession in the early 1900's.

A Flickering Light by Jane Kirkpatrick is an amazing novel, one I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s a book you want to savor and don’t want it to end.

A Flickering Light, ISBN 978-1-57856-980-9, is available at your favorite bookstore or through A sequel, An Absence So Great is due to be released March, 2010. For more information about Jane Kirkpatrick, visit her website

1 comment:

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for the review, Mary. This book is high on my to-read list!