Cover image for The art of seeing : a novel
The art of seeing : a novel
McGovern, Cammie.
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Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, [2002]

Physical Description:
283 pages ; 25 cm
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In this mesmerizing and intimate first novel, Cammie McGovern chronicles the intertwined lives of sisters from childhood through adulthood. Rozzie is flamboyant, brooding, and beautiful, a star in her younger sister Jemma's eyes even when they are still children. When Rozzie takes up acting and, as a teenager, wins a part in a major motion picture, life changes irrevocably for both sisters. Rozzie is catapulted into the adult world of celebrity, a world that brings constant attention but not always comfort. Jemma, feeling directionless in her own life, follows her sister, traveling to movie sets, befriending other actors, relishing her sister's fame, never seeing the strain that the spotlight puts on Rozzie.Only when Jemma develops her own artistic ambitions as a photographer and Rozzie is forced to reveal the secret she has kept from her family for years -- she is suffering from a rare eye condition that threatens her vision -- does Jemma begin to see the truths about her sister and herself that threaten the delicate balance of their relationship. The Art of Seeing is a masterfully crafted and absorbing novel about the nature of celebrity and the powerful and enduring connection between sisters, from a writer of exceptional insight and grace.

Author Notes

Cammie McGovern writes both young adult and adult novels. Her young adult novels include Say What You Will and A Step Toward Falling. Her adult novels include Neighborhood Watch, Eye Contact, and The Art of Seeing. She is also one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Jemma has always lived in the shadow of her older sister, Rozzie. She watched as Rozzie's acting ambitions led her first to school theater performances and then, amazingly, to the big screen. Jemma, content to stay in the background as an observer, has pursued a photography career. When Rozzie disappears from a movie set and turns up at a midwestern hospital, barely able to see at all, Jemma returns home to help her parents care for her sister. Rozzie has been hiding her eyesight problems for years, and the success rate for the surgery she has is dishearteningly low. Though Jemma stays by her sister's side, there is much that lies unsaid between the two and resentment that lies just beneath the surface of their relationship. When Jemma comes up with a scheme both to keep Rozzie in the public eye and also to get her sister some much-needed money, it threatens their already tenuous bond. An honest and moving debut novel that realistically portrays the tensions and love between sisters. --Kristine Huntley

Publisher's Weekly Review

This first novel, by the sister of movie actress Elizabeth McGovern, may be narrated by the sister of a movie actress, but it doesn't read like a roman clef; the scenes around the movie sets on which Rozzie has become a star as a teenager are oddly muted and unrevealing, while the inner life of narrator Jemma carries the book. Jemma is alternately envious and anxious about Rozzie's celebrity, and when she begins to nourish ambitions of her own as a photographer she is tempted to use that celebrity to further her own career. The situation becomes even more emotionally complicated as Rozzie begins to go blind and her movie-star existence starts to crumble. McGovern has an effectively deadpan, rather oblique style and offers some trenchant psychological insights into sibling relationships, but the book's ever-shifting time frame makes it difficult to follow the progress of Rozzie's decline, and it seems preposterous that her growing blindness is for much of the time a well-kept secret. Jemma's photography, too, becomes enmeshed in improbable psychodrama as she replaces some of her pictures in her first-ever show at the last moment, armed with nothing but a screwdriver. The emphasis on visualization throughout the book is sometimes compelling, but the narrative framework on which it is hung is flimsy.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

McGovern's first novel examines the relationship between two sisters, Rozzie and Jemma Phillips. Younger sister Jemma watches from the sidelines as Rozzie blossoms into a 17-year-old beauty and movie actress with a promising career. Rozzie invites Jemma to work on the movie set, and Jemma begins to photograph the actors, especially Rozzie, in hopes of gaining some understanding of her sister's seemingly glamorous life. What she doesn't know is that Rozzie is struggling with a rare condition, concealed from her family, which leads to blindness. This secret leads to misunderstandings and betrayals between the sisters. After Rozzie is hospitalized and her family learns of her condition, the sisters begin to communicate. Gradually, they are able to understand and forgive each other. What results is a moving exploration of the relationship between two talented sisters and their misconceptions about one another's experiences. McGovern's clever use of flashbacks highlights the problems that each has in "seeing" the other. The book will be especially appealing to women and is recommended for large public libraries. - Cheryl L. Conway, Univ. of Arkansas Lib., Fayetteville (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.