In 1849, Elizabeth Gow is given a keepsake for her seventeenth birthday: a daguerreotype portrait of her father, contained in its own special box. Elizabeth is thrilled with the gift. A year later she is about to leave school to take a temporary teaching job; to embark on life. She is nervous at the prospect of abandoning her beloved father for so many months, yet is excited that she will make her own way in the world. Her father preempts her plans by accepting a job opportunity for himself in America. Since she is his only family, Elizabeth feels it is her filial duty to accompany him.
The Daguerreotype is a splendidly written book. Author Patrick Gregory sustains the almost flawless narrative of Elizabeth’s personal journey from sheltered English schoolgirl to strong-willed wife and mother who must build a life for herself and her children in a new land. Elizabeth’s story is told in selections of time spanning 80 of her 97 years. The prose is reminiscent of nineteenth-century language without being archaic. A fine first novel.