From Publishers Weekly
Smith's clever but uneven debut novel peers into the mind of the eccentric 19th-century French genius who invented the daguerreotype. In 1846, the celebrated photographer Louis Daguerre, his brain addled by the mercury process that made him famous, has a vision of the end of the world, which launches him on a quest to record a series of 10 images before the apocalypse. The aged Daguerre enlists the help of bohemian poet Charles Baudelaire, and together they prowl Paris in search of Daguerre's subjects, including "a beautiful naked woman ," "the perfect Paris boulevard," "the king of France" and Daguerre's childhood friend and long-lost love, Isobel Le Fournier, whose affections he seeks to reclaim. When Daguerre encounters Isobel's daughter, Chloe—now working in a Paris brothel under the name Pigeon—he sees a way to bring closure to his unfulfilled romance. In flashback, Smith stages a vivid re-enactment of the intellectual progress and persistent experimentation that led to Daguerre's breakthrough discovery, but he trots out clichés in the service of the sentimental love story between Daguerre and Isobel, most notably her hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold daughter. Despite predictable plot twists, Smith renders a clear-eyed portrait of Daguerre and his thinking, against a backdrop of tumultuous times. (Feb.)
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"[a novel] full of hallucinatory and beautifully rendered images...a richly promising start to the literary career of Mr. Smith." -- Dallas Morning News, February 19th, 2006
"[a] vibrant first novel...Smith has an artist's eye and gives Daguerre an artist's heart." -- Detroit Free Press, February 12, 2006
(Starred Review)Smith's beautifully written debut...a compelling psychological study, a thoughtful tracing of the birth of a new art form -- Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2005