I don't know about you, but when I read fiction, I don't really see the words. I just see moving pictures in my head, that is, if the book is good and convincingly written. So when I read a period novel, my imagination conjures up costumes for every character appropriate to that era.
So when the publishers of Margaret Dickinson's latest novel Jenny's War asked if I'd like to read her latest book, I jumped at the chance. The book is set in London and Lincolnshire during WWII and so the review would fit in very nicely with my historical costume theme for the month of March, here on the Magic Bean.
Pictures like this were popping into my head:
Sadly, the cover of the book is a disappointment from the point of view of someone who loves period and vintage clothing. The girl pictured is styled in a very modern way. A floral blouse does not a 1940's outfit make. Particularly, when paired with an extremely modern hair style and coat. If I had seen this book in the shop, I'm not sure I would have picked it up, simply because of the style of the cover.
However, I would have missed out on an enjoyable read. Like when I read Margaret Dickinson's last book, Forgive and Forget (click the link to see my review of that book), I found myself sucked into the book quickly. It wasn't hard to flip the pages and become involved in the story of war evacuee Jenny Mercer. Jenny's mother had next to no interest in her little girl. When the opportunity came to send Jenny away to the country, it was more convenient for Jenny's mother, Dot to have her out of sight and out of mind.
Luckily the family home where Jenny eventually took refuge was the opposite of what she had previously experienced - warm, welcoming, loving and supportive. Interestingly, the Thornton family who sheltered Jenny were the subject of one of Margaret Dickinson's previous novels, Sons and Daughters. I haven't read Sons and Daughters myself (with its far more appropriately period cover, at least, not yet), but this book has been written as a stand-alone story. In fact, it was written in reponse to readers who wanted to know what happened to Jenny when she left the Thornton family. Obviously, I'm not the only one who gets attached to Dickinson's characters.
One element of the novel did give me pause however, and that was that I didn't feel that Jenny's behaviour was appropriate or entirely believable for her age at the beginning of the story. I felt Jenny's thumb sucking and tantrums when she first arrived with the Thornton's were more typical for a 5 year old, rather than a 10 year old. I would have assumed that given Jenny's mother's lack of attention which would have meant that Jenny was often left to fend for herself that she would have been more mature than her years, rather than the other way around. I'm certainly not a psychologist, but that element of Jenny's character did make the moving picture in my head falter while I struggled to suspend my disbelief.
However, I'm glad that I persevered as the rest of the novel did not disappoint. Jenny matured, despite having to return to her mother and her nefarious "Uncle" Arthur who involved her in their stealing and black market dealing.
Through it all, Jenny continued to draw and paint, having been introduced to art by Charlotte Thornton, a painter herself. I think it is so interesting that many of Margaret Dickinson's characters have creative souls. For Jenny, art was a solace and also a large part of the key to her happiness.
The other key was, of course, love. The love of the Thorntons, but most specifically of Georgie Thornton. Georgie had difficulty thinking of Jenny as anything other than a sort of sister to him, that is, until the end. I won't tell you the ending. You'll have to read the book yourself, but I will say that I thought the ending was surprising and brave. Jenny and Georgie were brave, but I felt that Margaret Dickinson was brave too. Not many romantic novelists would make such a bold choice for their romantic leading character. It was a more realistic ending. It was still romantic, just not picture perfect.
So if you want to take a page out of Margaret Dickinson's book and draw, like Jenny, take a look at some of these outstanding drawing tutorials. Although I most often draw faces on my cloth dolls, I do also have a sketch book, as it is essential to constantly draw and hone your skills. Check out these links:
Basic Anatomy of the Artist- Art School Online by Roger Elliot
Emotions and Facial Expression - by Jouman Medlej
The Basic Head - on Neon Dragon Art
Drawing the Human Eye - on Only Pencil
How to Draw Eyes- by Stan Prokopenko
How to Draw Nose- on Drawspace
How to Draw Expressions (click on the link and then click the image to see it larger) - by Lackadaisy on Deviant Art - read through the captions they are both hilarious and helpful!
How to Draw Lips - by Cataclysm X on Deviant Art
Drawing the Body
How to Draw the Human Body- on Neo Dragon Art
How to Draw Clothes (click on the link and then click the image to see it larger) - by Sugar Sugar Hyper Lolly on Deviant Art
Many of these links I found via a great list of drawing links on Design Your Way, click the link for even more drawing tutorials.
If you are looking to draw on some inspiration for either that 40's costume feel or for sketching and painting, look not further than between the pages of Jenny's War.
By the way, this is NOT a paid, sponsored post, but simply my opinion of the book. The publisher contacted me and asked if I would like to read a copy of the book as I had reviewed one of Margaret Dickinson's previous books. So read it I did. Enjoy it I did. I didn't mean to start speaking like Yoda, I'm not sure how that happened.