The Jump Artist


At times this is not the easiest book to read, nor is it the most enjoyable, nor the most exciting. You will either love it or loathe it – there is no in-between. It is one of those books full of beautifully crafted moments, a book where every sentence has clearly been thought about, a book of words more than story. Those of you who enjoy a good historical murder mystery will be disappointed; those of you who enjoy words for words’ sake, with a little story threaded through literary moments, will be in heaven.

Based on the early life of Philippe Halsmann, the Latvian-born Jew who became one of the most famous portrait photographers in the world – photographing such famous names as Albert Einstein, Salvador Dali, Andre Gide and Marilyn Monroe – this book begins with the little-known fact that Halsmann was convicted of murdering his own father in 1929. Weaving psychoanalysis with murder, courtroom drama with inner angst and romance with the art of seeing, all set against the clouds of Nazism threatening Europe, it is definitely a unique novel, both gripping and frustrating in equal measure as we follow Halsmann’s retrial then jump to his exile in pre-World War Two France and finally leap to his life in America.

It’s hard to deny this book’s attention to historical detail, but it’s also hard to really love. A curio for most, and a must-read for Halsmann fanatics.

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12 of the best stories selected from the 2012 Historical Novel Society Short Story Award







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