Afterimage by Helen Humphreys

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Synopsis

In a daring, beautiful novel set in the turbulent world of Victorian England, a maid, mistress, and master are drawn into a fateful love triangle.

When Annie Phelan arrives at the Dashells' farm to begin work as a maid, she finds her new mistress strapping wings on a naked boy who is to play the Angel of Death. Annie knows one thing for sure-she is not at the prim Mrs.Gilbey's anymore.

England in 1864 is a place of change. This is the age of invention, Crystal Palace, progress, the colonies. At the farm, the master dreams of far-flung exploration, while the mistress, Isabel, struggles with the new technology -- photography -- to produce art. And she struggles as well with her unimaginative help, who cannot play the roles she assigns.

It is Annie, beautiful, suggestible, and sensitive, who proves to be Isabel's inspiration. Through a series of portraits -- Guinevere, Ophelia, Grace, the Madonna -- the mistress transforms the maid into her confidante and muse. To the master, though, Annie becomes "Phelan," a member of his fantasy Arctic expedition. Caught between the two, Annie nearly loses herself, until disaster reveals her power over the Dashells' work and hearts.

Exquisite in its evocations, Afterimage is a boldly transgressive story of class, love, art, and freedom.

 

About Helen Humphreys

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Helen Humphreys is the author of four collections of poetry & one previous novel, "Leaving Earth", which won the Toronto Book Award, was a "New York Times" Notable Book, & was published in six languages. "Afterimage" was inspired by an exhibition of Julia Margaret Cameron's photographs. Humphreys lives in Kingston, Ontario.
 
Published January 1, 2001 by HarperCollins Canada / Phyllis. 256 pages
Genres: History, Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Humphreys (Leaving Earth, 1998) turns the Dashells' loveless marriage and burden of sorrow (three stillborn babies, and no living children) into a lucid but awfully undramatic debate about the nature and utility of artistic and factual representations of reality—so much so that when Eldon's frust...

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Publishers Weekly

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Viewing Annie dressed up as Ophelia, Sappho or the Madonna, 30ish Isabelle begins to feel an attraction to the younger woman—the kind of attraction she no longer feels for her husband, Eldon.

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