- Paperback: 248 pages
- Publisher: Nighthawk Press (May 11, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0998680737
- ISBN-13: 978-0998680736
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Jamie's Muse Paperback – May 11, 2018
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The conceit of Black’s novel is that Helen and her husband were encouraged to emigrate on the advice of Jamie Barrie, who would later achieve renown as the prolific author who gave the world Peter Pan. This idea is certainly viable because Jamie and Helen, merely two years apart in age, both grew up in Kirriemuir, Scotland, a village Barrie would later write about under the name of Thrums. Black imagines a friendship between the lonely, bookish boy and the beautiful, high-spirited girl. As a result of losing this sympathetic friend, Barrie establishes Helen as his lifelong muse, a golden memory he tributes through his writing.
The novel is also a meditation on art and the creative process. Despite working for South Africa’s new railway where he witnesses the harsh treatment of the Zulus by white settlers, Helen’s husband William yearns to be an artist. In the heartfelt letters he writes to his wife before she joins him in the colony of Natal, he muses over challenges of learning to paint with John Ruskin’s book as his guide and an absent wife as his inspiration. He tries to paint what he sees but understands how human vision is limited. The distant hills he paints are as misty as South Africa’s future. As William observes his watercolors bleed, the reader understands the tragedy this portends.
A highlight of the book is the empathetic understanding she brings to her Zulu characters, a noble people of the verge of colonial subjugation. In a brilliant stroke of characterization, she is able to implicitly challenge the nineteenth-century prejudice toward skin color. Helen’s son John is molded through an intersection with Zulu culture, and then brings this background to Scotland and America.
Bonnie Lee Black’s new book is a warm, human story that ultimately pays tribute to the strength people need in order to survive. Her novel shows us that while self-reliance is important, it is mutual reliance that is crucial. It joins us all in a human chain that circles the world, growing stronger with each human link.