French Goncourt Prize-winning novelist Ferrari returns with the story of Antonia, who grows up in rural Corsica, a place of deeply-rooted traditions and strong family ties. When she's 14, her uncle, a priest, gives her a camera—setting her off on a life course that will include a profession as a photojournalist who reports on the war in the former Yugoslavia.
In His Own Image is a darkly poetic novel that explores the disconnects between love and passion, photography and reality, and time and memory ... Antonia’s story is told in a non-linear fashion, jumping backwards and forwards, allowing Ferrari to explore the malleable nature of time while also presenting the perspectives of other significant characters from her life. The ending of the book is particularly moving, and the translation as a whole, by Alison Anderson, is beautifully done—the prose is fluid and natural, and the sections written in a religious register are authentic rather than archaic. Although In His Own Image has all the makings of a European classic, the writing style occasionally veers towards the classical in an outmoded sense. It is a story that is told rather than shown, and this saps the narrative’s sense of immediacy—as if we are reading a biography of a fictional character, rather than experiencing the story ourselves.
Whether or not Antonia’s uncle serves in some divine capacity, the story his gift sets in motion provides Ferrari with an opportunity to explore the limits of human love and suffering. Moral questions take on human form in Ferrari’s stunning narrative.
Chapters about early 20th-century photographers intrude on the narrative, sentences stretch on over pages, and not all the prose is particularly insightful ... It’s an intriguing story, but it’s undone by misfiring flourishes.