Today’s final book is I Stopped Time by Jane Davis.
What if the villain of your childhood turned out to be someone really rather extraordinary?
2009: Disgraced politician Sir James Hastings is unmoved when he learns his mother has died at the age of 108. In his mind, he buried her when she abandoned him as a child. Brought up by his father, a charismatic war-hero turned racing-driver, the young James, torn between self-blame and longing, eventually dismissed her as the ‘villain’ of his childhood. But now he inherits her life’s work – an incredible photography collection spanning six decades – and is forced to confront the realisation that his version of the past isn’t even half the story.
Journey across a century of change as one man explores the world through this mother’s eyes and reassembles his own family history.
From the author
Photography has always been a passion of mine and I knew that I wanted to write about its pioneers. Then, my grandmother died the day before her 100th birthday. I decided (a) that the book should span an entire century and (b) it should be about an extraordinary woman. I called her Lottie Pye.
More inspiration came from Lee’s Miller’s biography. I knew her photography but, as it turned out, very little of her life. She was an incredible person. One of the most sought-after models of her day, who became a muse to surrealist photographers and artists such as Man Ray and Picasso. But she’d always yearned to be on the other side of the lens and, in time, her own work became highly respected. At the outbreak of World War II, dissatisfied with her fashion work, she documented the Blitz for Vogue, then underwent yet another transformation to become the only woman in combat photo-journalism in Europe. Taking enormous personal risks, Lee recorded the first use of napalm at the battle of St. Malo, the liberation of Paris, and the discovery of the Nazi concentration camps. Her personal life was never straightforward, but it’s a huge testament to the strength of her personality that all of her ex-lovers became friends. She eventually settled down in Sussex with the artist, Roland Penrose.
When she was in her forties, they had a son, Anthony. To him, Lee was an embarrassing mother. He had no idea of her history until, after she died, he discovered her collection of work. I found his comment that he was ‘cheated out of knowing someone really very extraordinary’ extremely poignant, and it set me on the road to discovering one of my main characters, Sir James Hastings.
While writing the book, I began to see parallels between photography and writing. The distance Lottie feels from her work. How it’s hard to take credit for it because it has an energy of its own. When asked to talk about her photography, Lottie compares this to a magician being asked to explain how he has performed a trick. I feel those things, as I imagine many authors do. One of the reviews I’m most proud of is from a professional who wrote: ‘the novel voiced everything I have ever held inside me as a photographer.’ As far as I am concerned, that was the greatest compliment anyone could have paid me.
Is this one you’d like to have on your e-reader? If so, just click on any of the images – all the books I’ve featured today and yesterday are available free with Book Club Gold. I’ll have four more great books for you tomorrow.