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 instils 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.
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.
Cherry Smyth’s debut poetry collection, When the Lights Go Up, was published by Lagan Press in 2001, and her most recent poetry collection is Test, Orange, available from Pindrop Press. Cherry was guest editor of Magma Poetry Magazine in 2012 and poetry editor of Brand Literary Magazine from 2005 to 2011.
Her poems and short fiction have won prizes and have been published in many journals and anthologies. She has been awarded a Royal Literary Fellowship for 2014.
She has been teaching poetry writing in the Creative Writing Department of the University of Greenwich since 2004.
She also writes for the visual art magazines Modern Painters, Art Monthly, Art Review and Circa, and her work as an art critic informs and shapes Hold Still, her first published novel.
Hold Still , 253 pages, ISBN 9781907320361, £12.99, €15.00, $21.00, is published by Holland Park Press, suite 8, 116 Gloucester Terrace, London W2 6HP, UK.