Synopses & Reviews
"Rocklin's debut novel, a case of style over content, was inspired by Julia Margaret Cameron's work in the new field of photography in the 19th century. Catherine Colebrook travels to Ceylon to join her husband, who has a government position there during a period of increasing strife between the British rulers and the local population. Catherine arrives in Ceylon, having buried one of her twin boys in England, and part of her fascination with the burgeoning art of photography is tied to her desire to hold onto him. She is fascinated by the possibilities photography offers: 'Aspects that were daily lost to careless memory might still be found...' and begins a correspondence with Sir John Holland, a scientist on the same exploratory journey, which upsets her husband and causes disdain and shunning within the colonial community. When a young local boy, Eligius Shourie, whose father was killed by British soldiers in Catherine's presence, is taken in as a servant, he soon shares Catherine's passion for photography. But he is torn between his growing loyalty to Catherine and the demands made on him by the villagers who want him to join them in sabotaging the British. The book is beautifully written, especially the scenes where Eligius works with Catherine in her experiments, while scenes of escalating political unrest and the impossibility of either side finding a reasonable solution to their differences are less effective, even if historically accurate. The supporting characters, in contrast to Catherine and Eligius, lack dimension. . If Rocklin plays to his strengths, he will be a writer to watch." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"IN this extraordinary debut, David Rocklin takes us to the heart of photography's unlikely origins through language that shimmers like the art of light itself. As creative obsession fuses with political crisis in Colonial Ceylon, the result is one unforgettable story. The Luminist is a gorgeous evocation of era, place, and human passion." Aimee Liu, author of Flash House and Cloud Mountain
"A literary feast of words and exquisite turns of phrase, The Luminist brings colonial 19th century Ceylon to life through the eyes of a Tamil boy named Eligius Shourie, a free-thinking servant who forms a bond with his employer, the ambitious British photographer Catherine Colebrook. Set against a tropical backdrop of simmering unrest, this elegantly constructed historical novel cast a quiet spell on me that gathered momentum right through to shocking final scenes of astonishing emotional power. This fascinating story made me want to run to the library and learn everything about the 19th century British photographer, Julia Margaret Cameron — on whom the character of Catherine Colebrook is loosely based — and the colorful history of Ceylon, which is now known as Sri Lanka." Anjali Banerjee, author of Haunting Jasmine
In colonial India, at a time of growing friction between the ruling British and the restless Indian populace, a Victorian woman and her young Tamil Indian servant defy convention, class, and heartbreak to investigate what is gained — and lost — by holding life still.
Suggested by the life and work of photographic pioneer Julia Margaret Cameron, The Luminist filters 19th century Ceylon through the lens of an English woman, Catherine Colebrook and a 15 year old Tamil boy, Eligius Shourie. Left fatherless by soldiers, Eligius is brought as a servant to the Colebrooks' neglected estate. In the shadow of Catherine's obsession to arrest beauty — to select a moment from the thousands comprising her life in Ceylon and hold it apart from mere memory — Eligius transforms into her apprentice in the creation of the first haunting photographs in history.