Book Review - The Last Photograph

by Emma Chapman (Picador) ISBN: 9781509816545

Emma Chapman’s second novel, The Last Photograph, tells the backstory of Rook Henderson - an award winning photographer who carries Vietnam and the agony of all that life behind the lens with him. Always. 

Now he has to add dealing with his wife June’s death to his burden. His son, Ralph looks to him for comfort and attention. 

Beautifully written, there are nuggets on almost every page, like - “In the darkness, it is easier to be thrown back into the past”, and “There was the smell too, of things growing.” However, I had almost no connection with any of the characters. The plot, which was told in reverse, was quite ordinary and unsurprising. 

Although I appreciated the gorgeous prose, and the detailed research and insight into Rook’s life, it was a let-down in terms of enjoyment and satisfaction. Beautiful - yes. Evocative - certainly. Memorable - not. 

Bev Bouwer


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How to be a good wife

by Emma Chapman (Picador) ISBN: 978-1-4472-1618-6


You’re advised to make time to read this wonderful debut novel by Emma Chapman in one sitting. It is an amazing roller coaster ride with few rest stops along the way and an ending that has you gasping for breath.


Marta keeps a clean home and is a good wife following the rules of the book How To Be a Good Wife, her mother-in-law’s wedding present. Her memory doesn’t go back further than the circumstances around meeting and marrying her husband, circumstances that he portrays differently to the outside world.


Her son leaving home creates an emotional upset. Martha decides to stop taking the pills that her husband insists she takes to keep her sanity. She wonders whether the presence she starts to feel in her home and the flashbacks she experiences are hallucinations or signs of her mind recovering memories of an earlier past. For different reasons, her husband and son become very concerned about Marta’s increasingly unsettled behaviour.


Marta realises that should the memories about her past be true, revealing them would have a great impact on her family. A difficult decision lies ahead.


Written in present tense and from a first person perspective this story grabs a strong hold of you and doesn’t let go until the very last word.


Josine Overdevest 


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