I was genuinely sorry to finish this book. It had me completely engaged… and I loved the clever surprise in the middle of it.
Louis de Bernieres, author of Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Ray Rumsby takes a historical figure, the maestro of the aqua-tint engraving William Daniell, and imagines his encounter with a street urchin called Jesse Cloud. Their relationship unfolds against a backdrop of mail-coaches, work-houses, laudanum, patronage, muddy streets, houses of ill-repute and all the paraphernalia of early nineteenth century London. But at the same time the story bears witness to social reform, early women’s suffrage, the emancipation of slaves, gender & class mobility, and shows how our contemporary concerns have a long history. As their relationship evolves they move from the formality of master and apprentice to something more akin to friendship (across the yawning social divide) and each makes possible a shift in the other’s destiny. Writing through the eye and viewpoint of a distinguished (though largely forgotten) artist allows Rumsby to conjure in his writing a vivid visual sense of an England both lost and familiar.
Hugh Lupton, author of The Ballad of John Clare
A wonderful novel told in two very distinctive voices. William Daniell is the lusty, naive, dedicated artist, always in debt because essentially kind. Jesse Cloud is his wily, determined apprentice. Both have secrets. Both are in need of each other. This is a pulsing, captivating narrative that evokes the 1800s in convincing, colourful detail. Its exploration of class, poverty and women’s rights resonates. A wholly enjoyable read.
Lynne Bryan, author of fiction and non-fiction, and tutor for the National Writer’s Centre
Available in print and ebook
Set in 1820 London, landscape artist William Daniell hires Jesse Cloud, a homeless teenager, to be his apprentice. But all is not as it seems. Both William and his prentice must make their own inner journeys to expose others’ betrayals and explore their own possibilities. Faced with bankruptcy, starvation looms. Friendships fragment. The artist must learn how to see and his prentice must learn how to survive – while the truth shatters all.
William’s camera obscura captures an insecure society of inequality and flux. Two centuries later it is uncannily familiar and resonates deeply.