Read Afterimage by Helen Humphreys Online


Inspired by the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, Afterimage is the bold and provocative story of Annie Phelan, a maid in the home of Isabel and Eldon Dashell. Isabel is experimenting with the new medium of photography, and is inspired by Annie, who becomes her muse. The two form a close relationship, but when Eldon devises his own plans for the young maid, Annie nearly loseInspired by the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, Afterimage is the bold and provocative story of Annie Phelan, a maid in the home of Isabel and Eldon Dashell. Isabel is experimenting with the new medium of photography, and is inspired by Annie, who becomes her muse. The two form a close relationship, but when Eldon devises his own plans for the young maid, Annie nearly loses herself, until disaster reveals her power over the Dashells’ work and hearts....

Title : Afterimage
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780312420642
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Afterimage Reviews

  • Caleigh
    2018-12-06 20:23

    I would be more comfortable giving this 4.5 stars, but it's too good to be just a 4 so I will settle for 5.This is the third Humphreys novel I have read, and my favourite so far. It's an absolutely beautiful Victorian-era story of a young Irish maid named Annie and her relationship with both the lady of the house - a wilful and somewhat unladylike photographer struggling to be recognized - and the gentleman - a map maker with a yearning to explore the world and map the entire thing. Neither takes a particularly traditional approach to their servants, particularly Annie, who isn't a very typical servant herself.I find the tone and style of Humphreys' writing suits me perfectly. It's beautiful without veering into poetry; descriptive without being verbose; emotional without being excessivly melancholy or dramatic; romantic without being sappy. I like that she used a hint of true history as her inspiration, but didn't just repurpose or retell anyone else's story. And I love the eras that she chooses to set her novels in, from the mid-19th to mid-20th Centuries. I also like the fact that she keeps them relatively short - at just under 250 pagesm it was easy enough to read this book in an afternoon and still have time to look out the window and mull it over afterwards.

  • Joanna
    2018-11-22 17:24

    I found this book to be rather strange. While it had an intriguing dreamy narration, the story itself failed to impress me. There was no overarching plotline or climax; I felt as if I was reading a collection of short stories with the same characters in each one. For example, in one section of the book Isabelle would take pictures of Annie, and in the next, Isabelle’s husband would talk to Annie about how he wanted to be an explorer in his youth. Both events happen in the same setting in a short time frame, but they do not connect or build off of the characterization that happened. It felt as though, in each section of the book, characters were being revealed to me over and over again, but they were never being developed past that initial revelation. Furthermore, there was no goal or tension that built-up to a climax. I debated about giving this book three stars, because two seemed a little harsh, but then I realized that I actually did not like reading Afterimage at all.

  • Fran
    2018-11-22 17:23

    This is a story about an intelligent, quietly spirited young Annie Phelan, survivor of the potato famine who comes to an unusual household as a maid. She quickly becomes a model for her mistress, Isabelle, a photographer struggling against the trivialization of women as artists and against the artistic dogma of the day (photography is not real art). That Isabelle has lost three children at childbirth has strained her marriage to Eldon. Eldon finds Annie a most agreeable companion and he gives her books to read, shares his dreams of actually traveling to the Arctic rather than simply making maps. Humphreys weaves together threads of early photography, Arctic expeditions, cartography, the role of women, the famine, class structure, attraction. The writing is deep without being showy.

  • Bandit
    2018-12-07 23:35

    Inspired not so much by real events (if one was to look up Cameron's bio), but at the very least by real photographs, this book is a work of art in itself. There is such beauty to the writing, the cadence of narrative, the astute characterizations. In a wake of Downton Abbey's popularity, this can be described as an upstairs downstairs story, only the household is small and the lines quickly blur for the new servant Annie Phelan. She becomes alternatively a muse, a model, a friend, a confidante, and most of all an escape from loneliness that defines the marriage of the master and mistress of the house. It isn't quite a love triangle nor should it be marginalize as a lesbian fiction. Just like photography itself it is a matter of perception, an emotionally intelligent study of how our perceptions control our reality and vice versa. Do we see a person as they are or as we want them to our thoughts, desires and dreams inform our visions what might we miss really seeing. Very moving thought provoking novel. Recommended.

  • Jaidee
    2018-11-12 20:46

    3.5 stars....a Victorian bisexual love triangle....there were moments of profound beauty, passion and insight...however the book was soooo jarring in other sections that appeared rushed and overwhelmingly amateurish....this book had real potential to be a minor masterpiece with a few more edits and expansion of the story and fleshing out of the psychology of the three main some point I would like to read a more recent novel by this author as some of this book was absolutely brilliant.

  • Kimberly
    2018-11-21 17:44

    If you are simply reading this novel based on the progtagonist character of Annie Phelan (both Mary's Hillier and Ryan) then it is a highly enjoyable story. However, for myself, I really struggled to enjoy the storyline based upon the characters of Mr. and Mrs. Dashell. Although, loosely based upon Mr. and Mrs. Charles Hay Cameron, the author purposefully wrote such stark differences in their life story, changing their life events so drastically that I honestly found the characters non-sympathetic. I understand full well changing the plot and storyline to suit the novel as the writing progresses, but what the author has done was fixate upon the married couple having them grow apart as a couple based upon facts that happend to Julia Margaret Cameron having her character make decisions that she herself did not make in real life affecting both her photography theme and subject matter. Afterimage is beautifully written and perhaps if I had read it knowing nothing about the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, I would have loved it hands down.

  • Prom
    2018-11-23 21:41

    Im curious as to what Ive missed from reading this book. All the reviews seem to paint a different portrait than what I was presented with upon delving in to the world of the hoousehold of the Dashells. I found it a bit boring, actually. I will agree with the other reviews when they say that it was an easy read, perfectly easy to read in one sitting. The only problem was the perpetual boredom with which I was taken by throughout the entire book. Some spots were interesting. Most were not. Reading through the mapping bits and some of the stale descriptions, I would find myself fantasizing about other victorian pieces Ive read. To me, the characters were very flat. You couldnt tell the voices apart from one another. They were all written by the same author, and the reader could feel that. Not a book for me.

  • Beadyjan
    2018-11-18 18:43

    Can't rate it as gave up halfway through

  • Hannah Bisley
    2018-12-01 23:40

    This is terrible. I wish I hadn't wasted my money buying it. I was attracted by the setting and the time period...but any potential this had failed to be realised. The story is utterly pointless and dull. It only really gets going at the end. The only relationship that came across in the book is the friendship between Annie and Eldon but apart from that all the characters are really dreary and 2D. Minor characters have absolutely nothing about them, they just exist. The most interesting events of the plot are never explored or developed. This is such a disappointment.My main complaint with this though is the style of writing. The use of the present tense is really confusing and distracting. Rather than having a chapter or section from each character's point of view it just shows us what everyone is thinking all the time. It was so hard to keep track of. You would flit between anyone and everyone's thoughts within one paragraph - I often had to re-read bits to figure out who was supposed to having that thought or feeling.I will be taking this to the charity shop on Monday morning. :/

  • Ines Häufler
    2018-11-10 22:28

    Eine feine Beobachtung, ganz nah an den Figuren, und atmosphärisch, und ich musste daran denken, dass ich die Filme "Das Piano" und "Bright Star" wieder einmal sehen möchte.

  • Helen
    2018-12-09 22:30

    It's not frequently that I think "this book should have been longer", but this is the case with Afterimage. Too much plot for the pages; too much ground to cover that was whipped through and effect was lost as a result. There were a lot of moments that this novel clearly wanted to be emotional and moving. There was the budding of some beautiful symbolism, but 250 pages was not enough to develop it into something that gave it its full impact. The surface was skimmed, and what was underneath looked promising, but plunging the depths isn't one of the strengths of this book. The characters show signs of wanting to be developed, but instead of this, each has their 'thing' about them and that's pretty much it. Tess is grumpy. Isabelle likes photography. Eldon likes maps. Annie is an Irish orphan. All of the characters had the potential for further fleshing out. The 'thing' about them could have been incorporated into wider development, and they could have been believable and interesting. As it was, I came away from the book understanding what Humphreys wanted to say with them, but not feeling that she fully succeeded in doing so on the page.Still, Afterimage is worth a quick read. The historical backdrop and some of the writing is a bit shaky, but overall there were some unexpectedly poignant parts and potential that's enjoyable even when not fully utilized.

  • Risa
    2018-11-24 15:44

    I really enjoy Helen Humphreys books and this one didn't disappoint me.

  • Donna
    2018-11-12 20:29

    I really liked this book. My first Humphreys, and I think her writing isbeautiful. Afterimage is set in 18th century England, and is the story ofAnnie Phelan, the new maid at the country estate of Isabelle and Eldon.Tremendously interesting character studies....Annie's entire family died in"the hunger" in Ireland. Isabelle is a budding photographer. Eldon is anenthusiastic geographer, mapmaker, and history enthusiast. These plus othercharacters in the household all interact in Annie's life, making for anentirely enjoyable book that covers a tremendous amount of storytellingterritory in a short period of time, and it all works! :-) I'm lookingforward to reading more by this author.

  • Linda Lipko
    2018-12-03 23:40

    An accurate, artistic, lyrical story of Victorian caste system and the hyprocrisy therein. Set in 1865, Annie Phelan, is a young, poor Irish immigrant hired as a maid by an upper class English couple. As the loveless marriage twirls downward, Anne becomes a muse to both husband and wife. The wife, Isabelle, perceives herself as an artist/photographer and uses Anne as her subject matter. The husband, Eldon, uses Anne as his confessor/confidant.After reading two of Helen Humphrey's books, which were among my favorite reads thus far in 2009, I was very disappointed in this book. It simply did not hold my interest compared to Wild Dogs and The Frozen Thames.

  • Stephanie
    2018-11-10 17:51

    I love Humphreys' poetic writing. In this novel one character an orphan of the Irish famine serves as a maid and model, another is an English lady who attempts to create art using the tools of early day photography while her husband creates maps and longs for the real world of exploration. All kinds of images of being seen, being invisible, being discovered and the idea of being something beyond the class or category the world ascribesyou to.

  • Her Royal Orangeness
    2018-11-20 18:35

  • Tsudy697
    2018-11-25 16:50

    I enjoyed this, nothing outstanding to report, just a good book.

  • Graeme Stuart Waymark
    2018-11-12 16:43

    One more five star novel read in the last two years. I would rate it as more enjoyable than "Middlesex", as strong as some classics, as powerful as a John Irving novel and as deep as the best of Sebastian Faulkes. The imagery and near poetic resonance was much like Michael Ondaatje in the "English Patient" and I was as riveted as when I read "The Dovekeeper"; however this was historical fiction with an extraordinarily unique twist of interpolating the research of history with the contemporary humanity of individuals adapting to life circumstances that tend to hide often and reveal seldom their true nature. Ironically, as with most of us, our nature albeit hidden is the true self we would want to be seen by others. When do we find this out? And does it matter our station in life or what stage of a life cycle it can be presented as observable. This is a novel of which I could write a novel describing/reviewing it. I just want to ruminate and talk about it. Wow…! And Helen Humphreys is Canadian. Spoiler alert: >>>>If you have viewed the recent CBC tv mini-series: "Saving Grace". (Also a novel, of which I have not yet read). Both are set in Kingston ON; both revolve in part around a servant, orphaned as a result of the 'potato famine' in Ireland. <<<There are also several similarities, but if you loved the mini-series; you will also want to read this.

  • Cristina Domenech
    2018-12-08 23:49

    4.5. The only reason is not a 5 is that I found the wide-eyed, better-than-her-mistress-and-master, super-literate Victorian servant trope a bit too much, but I am nitpicking here, this book is excellent, heartfelt and full of little wonders, I absolutely loved it.

  • Nessa
    2018-11-18 17:33

    First impression: a beautifully written waste of time. Yet the intricate layers of symbolism everything is steeped in make it a thought provoking read.

  • Stephanie
    2018-12-10 16:38

    I can always count on Helen Humphreys to write a beautiful novel that makes my heart feel all warm and, like, trembly, and whathaveyou. I love that Humphreys is a Canadian who is so clearly in love with England and, in particular, London because I CAN RELATE. I'd recommend Humphreys to fans of Sarah Waters.

  • Orla Hegarty
    2018-11-26 20:50

    I love how her stories capture herstory in such a clever way.

  • Simone
    2018-11-29 20:49

    Review initially published on my blog, Writing by Numbers,here.This quiet novel features three Victorian-era introverts. Isabel Dashell, modeled after British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, is an irascible workaholic in pursuit of beauty. Eldon, Isabel’s husband, is a bookish mapmaker whose poor health has kept him from a life of Arctic exploration. Annie Phelan, whose character is based on Cameron’s frequent model Mary Hillier, completes the cast.Annie works as the Dashells’ maid, and finds that the eccentric pair are less concerned with household upkeep than with their own pursuits. Isabel practically lives in her darkroom, covered in collodion and silver nitrate, and co-opting anyone she can find into sitting for photos. Her servants fit in their chores around hours spent motionless in the cramped studio. Meanwhile, Eldon retreats into his own flights of fancy as he and Isabel grow further estranged. Posing for Isabel and reading Eldon’s books, Annie starts to explore her own identity, mourn family lost in the Irish famine, and reshape her faith.Although we glimpse broader themes like art world sexism and social class, the book mainly explores the relationships between the trio. Much like Cameron does in portraits, Humphreys keeps a soft focus and an intimate frame. She carefully places her subjects in aesthetically pleasing configurations. It’s a little slow at times, but meditative, purposeful, and dreamy.The 214 in 2014 series chronicles every book I read in 2014. Each review contains exactly 214 words. For more, visit

  • Hanna
    2018-11-21 21:39

    Es gibt Bücher, die würde ich nicht kaufen. Schuld daran sind meistens die Kurzbeschreibungen am Buchrücken. Ich hasse Kurzbeschreibungen und vermeide es sie zu lesen. Entweder geben sie zuviel oder zuwenig vom Buch Preis (oder verfälschen den eigentlichen Inhalt). In diesem Fall wäre es ähnlich gewesen, da ich aber nicht an Büchern vorbeigehen kann die gratis sind kam ich vor einigen Jahren über eine offene Bibliothek zu diesem Buch (und jetzt erst dazu es zu lesen).Humphreys Prosa hat mich extrem in den Bann gezogen, ihr fliessender Wechsel zwischen den inneren Monologen der verschiedenen Protagonisten machte die Geschichte unglaublich facettenreich und die Beschreibung des fotografischen Prozesses in den Anfängen der Fotografie interessierte mich als Fotografin natürlich besonders. Ich kannte Julia Margaret Cameron bis dato nicht, werde mich aber definitiv näher mit ihr und ihrer Arbeit auseinandersetzen. Helen Humphreys Schreibstil ist sehr plastisch ohne dabei langweilig beschreibend zu werden. Vor dem inneren Auge hatte ich ein ganz genaues Bild von dem Anwesen und den Protagonisten, konnte die Szenen fast schon riechen. Glücklicherweise ist das Buch keine Liebesschmonzette, trotz aller erotischer Spannung die so gut wie nicht eingelöst wird. Der letzte (und für mich schönste) Absatz des Buches: "Das Leben ist die unerwartete Großzügigkeit eines Kusses. Der verfliegende Moment. Nicht festgehalten.

  • Madeline
    2018-11-27 22:27

    02/15/2012Upon re-reading, I think Afterimage is a trifle schematic for my tastes - but I wonder if I'd think that if I read it a third time (every reading is different!). Also, it's not a very long novel, and it benefits from a sustained mood achieved by reading over a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday morning, which is not how I read it this time. It has a quality I really appreciate in art (especially literature), which is that everything it achieves is on-purpose: Humphreys knows what she is doing, and so the work is controlled without being manipulative. It's an interesting book, and deserves more attention than it gets (although my library has it, so I guess a fair number of people read it?). I'd forgotten the literary allusions, and rediscovering them was really nice.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-19 20:32

    This was an interesting book. It's not terribly much in the way of plot, rather, it's in introspective look into the lives of people who have been beset by tragedy and are trying to deal with the lot they have been given by life by escaping into fantasy worlds: Isabelle loses herself in her photography, Eldon in his maps and books, and Annie in believing she has become their equal.This book never spends much time being overly dramatic and pretentious, which I enjoyed. There's certainly a lot that's left unsaid and the story requires a lot of reading between the lines, but I think that helped with the atmosphere Humphreys was trying to convey.One thing I particularly liked was Annie's relationships with Isabelle and Eldon. (view spoiler)[The usual story of a maid finding friendship with her mistress and having an unspoken almost-romance with her master is subverted here.(hide spoiler)]

  • Maryan
    2018-11-29 16:37

    Annie, an orphan of the Irish Famine finds herself as a maid in an English household. She becomes the muse for the mistress who is an early pioneer of photography and the sounding board for the master who is obsessed by early Arctic exploration. Isabelle photographs her coldly at first not really relating to her as a person. As Annie asserts her personality and preferences their relationship develops so that the work becomes more collaborative. Annie’s desire for reading leads her to the role of sounding board and distant confident for the husband. In these Victorian times Annie knows she’ll never be an equal but events allow her to develop her power and see a way out. The descriptions are ethereal, the relationships believable and the plot engaging.

  • Alison
    2018-11-16 15:38

    This novel was Inspired by the Victorian photography of Julia Margaret Cameron, it takes place in 1865 at the country home of Isabelle and Eldon Dashell who live in the south of England. Annie Phelen is an Irish maid who comes to work for them, and becomes an important person to both of the Dashells , and we see all three of them searching to find themselves.Having a love of photography, I really enjoyed the descriptions of the "making of a photograph" and the way she went about setting up her scenes. We are lucky to be in the digital age. ;-}

  • Marguerite
    2018-11-13 21:24

    An interesting story, and beautifully written:“She has prayed all her life and it has always seemed like the right thing to do, has always seemed as if it was an action in itself. But now, here, she thinks that praying is perhaps merely a form of waiting. Praying is waiting for something better to happen. Salvation means rescue.”“It is a dangerous thing, making a map. If there is a pure curiosity, an authentic urge for discovery and knowledge, why is it that every map seems a precursor to some form of exploitation? Settlement or battle.”

  • Imogen Herrad
    2018-11-18 18:49

    Only on p. 5, and already I'm relaxig into it. I feel I'm in the hands of a writer who knows exactly what they're doing. The language is precise and sparse with blooms of beauty every now and then; the characters are very clearly drawn and sharp and alive. Beautiful. Just beautiful.Finished now - I spun it out as long as I could because it was such a delight. I loved the writing, loved the characters, loved where it took and left them in the end. Fabulous book, all round.