Imagined Lives: Portraits of Unknown PeopleBy John Banville, Tracy Chevalier, and Julian Fellowes
In 'Rosy', Tracy Chevalier writes of a handsome young man with a flushed complexion as the object of homosexual desire. Minette Walters writes a poignant letter from a despairing wife. Alexander McCall Smith tells of merchant's daughter engaged as a body double for Mary, Queen of Scots. Julian Fellowes has created a biography of a resourceful woman whose husband was executed during Henry VIII's reign. Sarah Singleton relates the adventures of a spice merchant and amateur musician struggling to make his way in the world, despite his illegitimate status. Joanna Trollope tells a touching tale about a marriage proposal told in the form of a letter from the sitter's intended bride. By contrast, the fantasy writer Terry Pratchett has written an amusing tale about an explorer who presented Elizabeth I with a skunk. And John Banville has seen, in the features of a man on his deathbed, the face of an admired officer serving with Cromwell's New Model Army. These short, fictional narratives build brilliantly on what can be seen in each portrait, thereby providing a new and entertaining way of looking at these intriguing images.