The inspiration for The Luminist was the life of Julia Margaret Cameron, a British photographic pioneer who lived from 1815 to 1879. David Rocklin uses understated and often haunting prose to tell the story of 1830s colonial Ceylon and Catherine Colebrook, a woman obsessed with the possibilities of the emerging field of photography. When Eligius Shourie, a native Ceylonese boy, comes to the Colebrook home as a servant, he begins acting as Catherine's assistant in her struggle to make images permanent. As political unrest and native uprisings threaten the British presence, Catherine and Eligius lose themselves in experiments of light and shadow, forging a bond considered unseemly given their respective social stations. Catherine almost seems to be using Eligius as a replacement for Hardy, her infant son whose death was the catalyst for her interest in photography. This is a novel that has to grow on you. It becomes very atmospheric, but you have to be patient while that atmosphere develops. Rocklin won't spoon-feed you every morsel of information you might think you want right at the start. Details emerge as the story progresses, and gradually you come to understand the plight of the native people, the strange dynamics of the Colebrook family, and the no-man's-land where Eligius resides, as unwelcome among his own people as he is among the British. The Luminist is a gorgeous novel, deserving of five stars in just about every way save one. It contains a time-frame discrepancy that cannot be reconciled as the narrative stands. I'll avoid specifics in the hope that readers who are less detail conscious can pass right by it without notice. For me it was intrusive enough to preclude a five-star rating. In all other ways, I highly recommend the book for people who like historical fiction written in a somewhat classical prose style. I even loved the way it ended, which is increasingly uncommon for me.