A Flickering Light (Portraits of the Heart, Book 1)

by Jane Kirkpatrick

Paperback, 2009



Call number



WaterBrook (2009), Edition: 1st Edition/1st Printing, 400 pages

Original publication date



Fiction. Historical Fiction. HTML:Returning to her Midwest roots, award-winning author Jane Kirkpatrick draws a page from her grandmother's photo album to capture the interplay between shadow and light, temptation and faith that marks a woman's pursuit of her dreams. She took exquisite photographs, but her heart was the true image exposed. Fifteen-year-old Jessie Ann Gaebele loves nothing more than capturing a gorgeous Minnesota landscape when the sunlight casts its most mesmerizing shadows. So when F.J. Bauer hires her in 1907 to assist in his studio and darkroom, her dreams for a career in photography appear to find root in reality. With the infamous hazards of the explosive powder used for lighting and the toxic darkroom chemicals, photography is considered a man' s profession. Yet Jessie shows remarkable talent in both the artistry and business of running a studio. She proves less skillful, however, at managing her growing attraction to the very married Mr. Bauer. This luminous coming-of-age tale deftly exposes the intricate shadows that play across every dream worth pursuing�and the irresistible light that beckons the dreamer on.… (more)



Original language


Physical description

400 p.; 8 inches


157856980X / 9781578569809

User reviews

LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
This book sounded very interesting to me, a young girl at the beginning of the 20th century becomes apprentice to a photographer in Minnesota, “biographical fiction” based on the author's grandmother. I was delighted when a generous winner of an Advanced Reading Copy passed it on to me.

As an
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ARC, it did have errors that most likely were corrected prior to publication, as I expect in an uncorrected proof. Aside from that, I'm afraid it is just not my kind of book. The author is a writer of Christian fiction, not one of my favorite genres, and I did not realize that when I requested it. Still, the book did not get as preachy as it could have. To me, the characters seemed a bit too much cut from cardboard. One of the characters was referred to as “damaged Roy” because he stuttered.

The story moved very slowly for my taste and was repetitive, sometimes boring to me. And, generally not being a romance reader, I really did not like the way the romance was developed. Although there were some insights into the photography of the period, I had hoped for more. I did enjoy the photographs included in the book, thought they were interesting and lovely.
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LibraryThing member rglossne
This is not my usual kind of book but I did enjoy it. The premise, that the author based this novel on her grandmother's life, was intriguing. l loved the photographs of the real Jessie, and also the last photograph, and example of her work.

The book explored the difficulty of being a woman who
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wanted a career in the first years of the 20th century, the limits that society placed on her, and the assumptions about what women could and could not do. Mrs. Bauer is shown as a casualty of those assumptions. Jessie's mother flourishes within the constraints of this society.

Although I never read inspirational fiction I would pick up the sequel to this, to find out what happens to Jessie and her family.
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LibraryThing member palmtreegirl24
Jane Kirkpatrick's first book in the series, Potraits of the Heart, was absolutely enthralling! When I was given this book, I thought it was going to be something I would not be able to get into, but I was so wrong! A Flickering Light is based on the life of Jane Kirkpatrick's grandmother, and
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knowing that made the story even more intriguing!

Jane Kirkpatrick takes her readers on a journey in the life of Jessie, a teenage girl who loves taking pictures. Jessie is a young woman who takes a job in the studio of Mr. Bauer, who has promised to help her learn much about taking pictures and developing them. There at the studio with her friend Voe, Jessie learns all that she can under Mr. Bauer's tutorledge, and also comes to know Mr. Bauer and his family quite well. When Mr. Bauer becomes sick, Jessie helps take over the studio and finds that she does quite well, and wants to spend her life in photography and eventually own her own studio. As the months go by though, Jessie's life is filled with tempatation as she trys to deny her attraction to the very married Mr. Bauer. As Jessie trys to decide what is right she must also decide what is important for her career. Will her growing fondness of Mr. Bauer get in the way?

This book was quite different from anything I have ever read. It drew me in from the beginning, from the storytelling to the diary entries and pictures included. All of those things and also Mrs. Kirkpatrick's abounding research made this story, one I will soon not forget!
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LibraryThing member Jax450
I really wanted to like this book and I tried. The story of Jessie and her education in photography was interesting and a good base for the story (I wish there had been more of it). It is inspiring and fun to read the story of a young woman following something she enjoys while dealing with the
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backlash from family and friends who don't understand.

Unfortunately, that was the whole story and the rest of the events seemed contrived and the book stretches on long after I was interested in it. It's valid to say that Jessie's struggles with her actions and her faith are well done and not forced upon the reader. Her interactions with Mr. Bauer seem to be made too much of and were not as intriguing as they could have been. Also, Mrs. Bauer's illness and the interactions between Mr. and Mrs. Bauer are tedious and too long...observations that their relationship was struggling would have been enough and kept the story flowing better. Overall, I struggled to finish this story and won't be reading the sequel. It was a good effort with some enjoyable parts.
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LibraryThing member dsdmd
This is not a book I would have purchased. I'm really not into so-called "coming of age" novels. However, once I started reading, I could not put it down. Ms. Kirkpatrick is a true and gifted storyteller. She has a remarkable ability to take a few words and paint vivid pictures of people, places,
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and events. I was spell-bound.

This is a well researched novel based on her grandmother Jessie's life as a young woman who wants to be a professional photographer in a profession dominated by men in the early 1900s. She is apprenticed by a portrait photographer, an "older man" by her standards (she is only 15 at the time), with whom she becomes infatuated. This is also the story of him and his family. It is impossible to describe the complexity of the story told in this book, which flows easily and simply and beautifully for the reader. It also has actual photographs taken of or by Jessie, which make it even more personal. You come away feeling you know the characters.

While this has been described as a Christian book, and it is published by a Christian press, I did not consider it such. It is simply a beautiful story of a remarkable young woman. I am anxiously awaiting the next volume in Jessie's story.
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LibraryThing member bookappeal
A slow-moving story about a young woman in the early 1900s who aspires to become a photographer. Jessie Gaebele takes a job as an assistant to photographer F. J. Bauer, a man whose marriage has suffered since the accidental death of his young son. Jessie and Bauer are drawn to each other and,
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though they never actually commit adultery, they do share intimacy. When Jessie's secret desires are revealed to her family, she realizes she must leave town altogether to escape the temptation of forbidden love.

Kirkpatrick captures the restrictive era in her descriptions of Winona, Minnesota, and early photographer but some of the dialog is awkward and she repetitively describes Jessie's futile attempts to deny her attraction to Mr. Bauer and vice versa.

I do not read much Christian fiction so I can't compare to other works in this genre but this story was over-long and rather tedious.
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LibraryThing member busyreadin
An interesting premise regarding a young girl's coming of age during a time when women's roles were narrowly defined. Jessie was torn between her desire for a married man and the fear that her secret desire would be revealed. The story captured my attention. The author did a nice job of developing
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the characters and built relationships in a believable & heartbreaking way. The descriptions regarding the history of photography in the early 1900s was well researched. I enjoyed the book, but felt that is was a bit too long and began to drag toward the end. Worth reading, but not one of my favorites.
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LibraryThing member MaryC22
Jane Kirkpatrick's book a Flickering Light was a pleasant surpise. The historical details of the begtinning of modern photography and the struggles young women and families went through to survive during this age of great change was interesting and enlightening. The knowledge that this was based on
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Jane Kirkpatrick's grandmother and the interspersing of real photographs throughout the book further added to the charm of the book. The love story between Jessie and Mr. Bauer was handled with compassion and great understanding of human nature. Those who enjoy historical fiction as well as Christian fiction will enoy this title.
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LibraryThing member Oregonreader
As in previous novels, Jane Kirkpatrick has based this story on an historical person, in this case her grandmother. Jessie Ann Gaebele lived in Minnesota in the early years of the 20th century. In the story, she discovers a love of photography and dreams of working in what was then a man's
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profession. Against her parents wishes, she begins training with a local portrait photographer, F. J. Bauer. Kirkpatrick does a good job of describing photography of the time, the use of glass plates and mixing of dangerous chemicals. The conflict in the story arises as a strong attraction grows between Jessie and her employer. The author does a good job of developing her characters and explaining their motivations. By today's standards, the relationship between Jessie and Bauer is almost innocent, more one of feelings than physical actions. But in the community in which they live, their attraction is sinful and shocking. This is the second of Kirkpatrick's novels that I've read and she seems to be drawn to strong females, struggling to overcome the limits placed on women at the time. This book is very well written, with interesting believable characters. A special treat were the actual photographs taken by Jessie and woven into the plot.
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LibraryThing member hope3957
This was an interesting read for me as I especially enjoy historical biographies. I was drawn to this story because it was about a Midwest person. The discussion of the photographer's wife was sad. I found the attraction to the older man a little hard to believe.
LibraryThing member madamlibbytellsall
I've tried more than once to sit down and read this book. "Maybe this time I'll get through it," I tell myself. I've never been able to get past the second chapter. It has all the elements I usually enjoy; a heroine with a goal working against the odds to achive her dream and a period setting. But
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it just doesn't work for me. The first mention of the photographer's wife and how she "doesn't understand him" always irritates me and I find myself wanting to take her aside and talk her into leaving the jerk. After four tries I'm throwing up my hands and admitting defeat.
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LibraryThing member Lila_Gustavus
This is a novel set in early 20th century Minnesota detailing the life of Jessie Gaebele. As a fifteen-year old Jessie already knows what she loves and wants to do for the rest of her life: photography. From the moment she gets her first camera from her uncle, she is enchanted by the nature and
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landscape and wants to capture their beauty forever. Things get complicated when Jessie gets a job in a photo studio of F. J. Bauer and there is now a real possibility that her dream may become a reality as she

learns the trade of photography from an expert. But working with Mr. Bauer soon turns into something much deeper than just taking pictures and as Jessie grows up to become a woman, she has to decide which path to take: follow her dream career or her budding love for F.J.?

A Flickering Light was my first book that deals with photography. I have read my share of painters, musicians, poets and writers as main characters, but never a photographer. And I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I found in this book. Ms. Kirkpatrick managed to turn this not very interesting to me subject into something I found myself intrigued by. Part of it is probably that this book had a personal meaning to the author, as it is based on the life of her grandmother, who was herself a photographer’s assistant. Another part of the book that maybe was even more important than the photography aspect, was Jessie’s drive and determination to overcome whatever troubles may come only to fulfill what truly mattered to her. The book is set in the early 1900’ but this theme of going after your dreams is as timeless and important as it can get.

As I mentioned, A Flickering Light is book one in the Portrait of a Woman series and I gladly will continue with Jessie on her quest for what matters.
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LibraryThing member 1crazycatlady
Like other reviewers, I had a hard time connecting with the book. It sounded like it would be right up my alley, historical, photograpy and women's topics, but it didn't keep me reading. I did finish it, over a long period of time. I would leave it and come back to it. There were sections that were
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better than others and moved at a better pace. Over all, I am glad that I read it, but I am not sure about reading further works...maybe??? The Christian fiction was not glaring and did not make or break the book.
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LibraryThing member julko
I was lucky enough to receive this book as an advanced reader copy, and it seemed right up my alley. Unfortunately I didn't realize it was Christian fiction (the second time this has happened to me). It was less obvious than the other book, so it didn't bother me too much. What was more unfortunate
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is that the book was not particularly interesting and fairly repetitive. While the main character, Jessie, initially seemed interesting, I didn't feel she grew much as a person. Other characterizations, especially of Mrs. Bauer and Roy, were simplisitic when they could have been much more interesting. Overall a disappointing read.
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LibraryThing member debs4jc
I was intrigued by this fascinating story based on the true life courage of a real woman. Jessie Ann Gaeble is that young woman, who's desire to become a professional photographer at the turn of the century is one that is considered unusual for a proper young lady. Nevertheless, she gets a job
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working at a photography studio--but the attraction between her and her employer, Mr. Bauer, creates a crisis within her soul--and with her family. Jessie's difficult course is highlighted by photographs taken by the real Jessie, which adds much to the story. The historical flavor of the time is captured well, and Jessie's inner dilemma had me thinking much about the struggles we all face wtih temptation. Fans of well told fiction that prompts one to think about spiritual matters should pick this one up--especially if they like historicals.
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LibraryThing member suzanne5002
Jessie Ann Gaeble is born in the late 1800’s. During this era, many children do not attend high school. They find jobs to support their family or start their career. Jessie is one of these children.

She loves to take pictures. She is interested in every aspect of photography. Jessie is overjoyed
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when her uncle gives her a camera one year and she treasures it with every breath that she takes. She takes it wherever she goes because she never knows when a butterfly will flit by or the perfect setting of the sun will occur.

It is during her teenage years, 15 to be exact, that she begins her apprenticeship with a photo studio in town. She decides that being a photographer will be her career. She wants to learn the business of running a studio. The photographer is hesitant to bring her into the profession because he fears that she may seek employment elsewhere after he has trained her. This will be a gamble that he needs to take. So, he agrees to teach her the business for 6 months without pay. She agrees and finds this life very exciting and is eager to learn. During the 3 year span of working beside him, romantic notions rush into her head. She realizes that he is married and has children, but since she has never been in love, she does not know how to deal with matters of the heart.

Oh, how my father loved to take pictures. In that respect, this book was interesting to me. It was rather tedious reading because I think the author rambled on too much about the photographer’s family life. I just wanted to read about the photography aspect of the book. Toward the end of the book, I felt as if the author was writing a romance book instead of a historical fiction one.
A Flickering Light is a memoir about the Kirkpatrick's grandmother and her photography career. Kirkpatrick does a very job depicting the lives and the context of that era.
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