Review: Hold Still by Cherry Smyth

hold stillHold Still
written by Cherry Smyth
published by Holland Park Press

find it here: (affiliate links) Amazon, Book Depository, Goodreads

Why did I pick this book: I was asked by the publisher Holland Park Press to review this book. (I received a copy of this book for review purposes.)

Did I enjoy this book:

Scandalous and sizzling.

 I’m glad I read this book on my kindle because I’m afraid the pages of a paperback would have caught fire during some of those sex scenes.

Ok. I think I’ve cooled down enough to write my review. Shew!

Smyth’s writing is more poetry than prose. The story flows from the point of view of a young wanna be artist who models for the more established painters. Her artistic perception picks up every slight detail of behavior and expressions (think: Sherlock Holmes).

The character development in this novel is Shakespearean. Jo, especially, has depth and mystery. She explores all the emotional intricacies of love, experimental sex, economic realities, and cultural/gender expectations.

The story line is linear with each scene eloquently descriptive with multilayered imagery and themes.


Would I recommend it: I would. Note: This book would definitely receive an R rating for sexual content.

Will I read it again: No.


About the book – from Goodreads: Hold Still is set in 1860s London and Paris, and is a fictional account of a short period in the life of Joanna Hiffernan, the muse and model of both James Whistler and Gustave Courbet.

Cherry Smyth has created an enthralling picture of what must have been a remarkable woman. How did a young girl, just seventeen when she met Jim Whistler, admittedly with beautiful red hair, and a vivid personality, inspire talented painters to create wonderful paintings such as: Whistler’s Symphony in White, No.1: The White Girl and Courbet’s La Belle Irlandaise?

Hold Still tells the story from Jo’s point of view. Her father instills in her a sense of self and Jo grows up to be a free spirit, a suffragette avant la lettre. Jo draws you in on her journey and her growing sense of her own artistic identity.

The novel offers a wonderful insight into the artistic process; the rivalry and at the same time the supportive camaraderie. At the heart of the story is love, which shapes Jo’s life: She loves him looking at her, feels as if she is made for his gaze, is made anew in it.

You get a fresh understanding of how women in Victorian society were supposed to behave. Jo tackles this head on, and it is this courage that enables her to progress from seemingly being used as an artist’s model, to turn this into the break she needs to make her way in life.

Read Hold Still for an interpretation of Courbet’s notorious The Origin of the World’s genesis, with a highly plausible explanation of the absent head and face of the model.



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