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Culture Watch

Mourning Ruby
by Helen Dunmore, © 2004
Berkley Publishing Group Paperback (a division of Penguin Group)

Mourning Ruby is Helen Dunmore’s tenth novel, but the first one that this reviewer has read. You may be sure I am going straight to the library to find the others.

This lovely little novel is deeply affecting both in its subject and its craft. It is a tale of love and loss and healing, told in writing that is powerful, lyrical, and above all, honest.

It is Dunmore’s genius to pull you into a story of deep anguish and unendurable sorrow (the death of a child), and yet so engage you with her characters that you keep turning the pages, trusting her to lead you to some kind of acceptable resolution.

This book doesn’t lend itself to a re-telling of the facts of the story. The author’s artistry is essential to it. I can only recommend Mourning Ruby to you, without reservation.


And Consider This

The Art Institute of Chicago has been generous in its online image gallery of the popular 19th c artist, Toulouse-Lautrec. Organized by the Art Institute and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC the " aim of the exhibition is to place Toulouse-Lautrec in a wider cultural context and to include for comparison and contrast a selection of works by his contemporaries — including painters, printmakers, and poster artists — to evoke the life and art of fin-de-siècle Montmartre. This supporting cast includes such famous names as Degas, Van Gogh, and Picasso, but also less well-known artists such as Anquetin, Steinlen, and Casas, who also captured the spirit of the age. The inclusion of these works adds a new dimension to our understanding of Toulouse-Lautrec and his time."

This is the first large retrospective of Lautrec's work since exhibits in London and Paris in the early 1990s. Some of the themes covered in the exhibit include the culture of the Montmartre district, its famous dancehalls including the Moulin de la Galette and the Moulin Rouge, Chat Noir cabaret and the café-concerts.

When you're at the Art Institute's site, view six of the 68 Thorne Miniature rooms:

The 68 Thorne Miniature Rooms enable one to glimpse elements of European interiors from the late 13th century to the 1930s and American furnishings from the 17th century to the 1930s. Painstakingly constructed on a scale of one inch to one foot, these fascinating models were conceived by Mrs. James Ward Thorne of Chicago (Narcissa Niblack, 1882-1966) and constructed between 1937 and 1940 by master craftsmen according to her specifications.


Return to review of Brunelleschi’s Dome<<

Julia Sneden is a writer, teacher, wife, mother, grandmother and care-giver. She lives in North Carolina. jbsneden can be reached by email (at)

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© 2005 Julia Sneden and Tam Gray for SeniorWomenWeb

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