Title: The Photographer’s Boy
Author: Stephen Bates
Genre: Historical Fiction/Contemporary
Available: July 22, 2013
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Summary: Gene and Izzie Hofsettler are an upscale NY couple who buy a rural home in Massachusetts after the 9/11, to get away from the madness from the city. While renovating the home to transform it to a Bed and Breakfast, they come across a trunk of old photographers plates from what appears to be the Civil War. The author then brings the reader back in time to the Civil War era and also the 1930s to discover who the photographer was in his youth and in his old age. There are real stories of these characters buried in the action of the various time frames – stories of mistakes and heartaches, and yet of honor.
Review: This is a very different book for a lot of reasons. It’s hard to decide who the main character is, as in the various pieces of the story, the main emphasis is not on the same character. The pieces of the story fit together in an odd way. The reader is pulled into a commentary on how our culture has shifted in the 150 years since the Civil War. In fact, in many ways, the Civil War has been marginalized and left to a group of reinactors, who (according to the story), may or may not represent it in a positive way. We see that the youth of today’s culture do not understand it at all.
The part that I most enjoyed was the story of how Albert came to be “The Photographer’s Boy”- and the details shared about Matthew Brady and his group of photographer’s assistants. It discussed his famous gallery and portrait studio and the thinking behind the creation of these post battle shots. These men were the paparazzi of their day – following the army and waiting for the battle to end so they could record it. They were another kind of pioneer in the era as well. There was no established code of conduct for this type of thing and they made it up as they went along. The author uses actual Civil War photos from the era and weaves their creation into the story.
I enjoyed the book, but ultimately it is a sorrowful tale – talking of cultures past and the present that refuses to see it. Although the contemporary storyline carries the plot, it is the detail of the past that will draw the reader into the action.
Note: I was provided a copy of the book by the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.