If you have experienced the pleasure of reading Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s most recent works, Bittersweet and June (my reviews are here and here, respectively), you are aware of the quality of the author’s writing as well as her character development and story arc. The stunning character of her craft sent me on a search for earlier books, and I found two (there are more, I think). I will be reviewing the second of my finds next Tuesday.
Today I’m reviewing The Effects of Light, Beverly-Whittemore’s debut novel with reviews ranging across the rating boards on Amazon and Goodreads. Her entrée into the realm of published works foretells the success of forthcoming books.
Here we are presented with a story at once controversial, compelling, and charming. Two sisters narrate the story, one telling the past and the second sharing the present. The sisters, Myla and Pru, are raised by their exceptionally intellectual widowed father, Simon. A good friend and photographer, Ruth, sees possibilities in photographing the girls in the nude. Simon obviously gives his permission.
With Beverly-Whittemore’s lovely and descriptive language, I could see the images in my mind. Experiencing the sensitivity of her word choices to the images allowed me to “see” them realistically.
The controversy begins when Ruth decides to include some of the girls’ photographs in an exhibit, her first in a New York City gallery. Once the exhibit starts, the controversy ensues over whether these photographs of the girls are art or pornography.
For me, this is a classic argument in the art world. What the artist “sees” and what the viewer “sees” are often two different things. Similarly, what I gather from what the author writes is often different from what the author intended. However, if the work improves cultural life and existence for some and not others, that is the risk taken by the artist.
Intellectually and exquisitely well written, this is a lovely work and a beautiful beginning for Whittemore’s writing career.