Cover Image: Collodion

Collodion

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Member Reviews

This book is highly intriguing and hard to quantify.

Osborn Roche is a master of the new science of photography or daguerreotyping. He's made his name taking postmortem photos, stereotypes and tintypes of Civil War combatants and battlefields. He is also autistic.

Traveling from battleground to battleground in his large, red Romani vardo he and his nephew Ray find themselves on both sides of the battles. Mostly traveling with the Union army but occasionally finding themselves on the side of the Rebs forces. I found this dichotomy to be fascinating. The fact that he was treated with enthusiasm and respect (mostly) on whichever side he found himself as a non-combatant. That isn't the case with warfare today unfortunately. 

Along the way he comes across the handiwork of the new science of embalming the dead. Then he meets the embalmers themselves, Henry Cattell, his brother Ben and his daughter Lou (passing as a young man) set up in the outskirts of the Union camp he's in. Fascinated by the science he makes it a point to meet them, and finds himself entranced by Lou who seems to share his condition.

The autistic spectrum is handled sensitively and well as it presents in both Osborn and Lou, and the dealing they have with the world and people they come in contact with. 

The story itself blossoms along with Osborn and Lou's tentative steps towards friendship and then love. The travails they face as seemingly deviant persons in a world intolerant of such. The turmoil of the Civil War and its effects on the landscape and people. All are presented in a factual and well researched way.

The story is uplifting and heartbreaking by turn and tho the ending 'seem's abrupt upon further thought it is strangely fitting for the conclusion of Osborn and Lou's story.

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.
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Interesting premise, and shows different details than many historical novels. Not sure about the neurodiversity representation, and I bogged down 2/3 or 3/4 of the way through.
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I wanted to love this and it had so much promise with the civil war setting and the professions and neurodivergence of the protagonists but it was a bit tedious. The narration and the conversation were stilted. 

As for the characters, I know that if you've met one autistic person, you've met one autistic person but both autistic characters, especially Osborn, felt one-dimensionally autistic.

There were a few good scenes but the crafting of the story felt ragged and I won't be reading the previous book or the next one.
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This book started out promising, with a quirky main character who falls Forest Gump-like into fame as a photographer of Civil War battles. When he meets his soulmate, a young woman dressing as a man for her job as embalmer and also because it suits her, it feels fateful. However, Lou, who has been diagnosed with a "syndrome," and Osborn, who appears to have the same "syndrome," come across as childlike if not cartoonish / buffoonish, and it's harmful to people who are on the spectrum. The author throws in the token black, the token Native American, etc. I finished the book because it was a compelling storyline otherwise, and I wanted to give an informed review. To make matters worse, the ending is super creepy. I don't need to relate to a character to appreciate a good tale, but I expect this character was meant to be endearing, not criminal (I suspect it was intended to be romantic, but no, it was not). Also, NetGalley does not provide the information that books are part of a series. Morgan is a great storyteller, if he could toss the stereotypes out of his storyline, maybe by investing in a sensitivity editor. I received a digital copy from the author through NetGalley.
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Tenderness and death aren't words that seem to belong together, but in Collodion they are the glue behind Lou and Osborn's story. Though these two neurodivergent characters suffer from the small minds of those who would keep them apart, during a time of war and death, their scenes are written with such loving tenderness. The story doesn't pretend-away the hard truth's of the time, though. There are run-away slaves, women forced into sterilization, and the need for those who are different to run away into Indian territory, keeping you anxious to see Lou and Osborn finally achieve the life they deserve together.
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Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for a copy of this book to review !

Collodion
by  Greg Morgan

Historical fiction.

Osborn is a sweet but odd 19th century photographer. He suffers from a form of autism and has trouble in social situations. This is a story about his travels through life,  the battlefields of the civil war, people of that era and the early days of photography.

Osborn and his nephew Ray travel in their photographic wagon to photograph soldiers and scenes of the civil war. During their journey he meets a woman named Louise who is a similarly odd female embalmer.

This book was very informative regarding early photography and 19th century embalming techniques. Referencing some of the real life civil war photographer's in a fictional setting, Alexander Gardner and Mathew Brady are mentioned as fellow photographers in the field.

I absolutely loved the subject matter but for me, the story became tedious about half way through. It was well written and provided much information on the subject.
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I love reading books from new perspectives that I may not otherwise have the opportunity to come across.  When I saw this on netgalley, I thought that it would really fit that bill.  A book about a man on the spectrum who follows the battles of the American Civil War in order to photograph history, making a unique contribution to the war effort, and a woman, also on the spectrum, who embalms fallen soldiers so that they can be sent home to their families without rotting.  The characters themselves are delightful.  Their love story and their work lives are very believable.  The writing itself does not distinguish itself from the crowd in any way.  It describe what happens and has dialogue and that's it.  I can't really say much more about it because there is nothing more to it.  There are a few points that made me pretty uncomfortable, which is fine.  Literature should be able to do that, but I just can't get past the ending, which I won't spoil.  I will just say that I decided to knock off a star for it, which may be sort of harsh, but it seemed like it was leading to something more and then it just ended and I was left staring at the page saying to myself, "That's it?  Yep, that's it...okay, then."
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One of my favorite reading categories is historical fiction, although it is difficult to find literature in this genre that is well-researched, features a captivating story-line and is written in engaging prose. Well, I found all that it Collodion. In addition, I was frequently inspired to research the many interesting conditions, professions, and concepts I came across, so that I have learned a great deal in addition to enjoying an exceptionally good book.

To begin with I did not know much, if anything, about collodion. A bit of reading on the subject allowed me to understand that it was an important ingredient in an early wet plate process in photography, but was also used in early embalming together with cotton as filler substance. It's adhesive properties thus not only serve to emphasize the professions of the two main characters, Osborn and Lou, but also act as a metaphor for their being 'glued together' in their neurodiversity, mutual understanding, and need for each other. 

More reading enlightened me about the history of autism in America, the professions of war portraitists, weepers, and embalmers. Also the conditions of nystagmus or iridodonesis were very interesting to explore (it is not clear, which of these disorders is meant by Lou's 'fluttering irises'). My inclination to read up on interesting concepts in books does not mean that readers of Collodion need to do the same. This is simply my own peculiarity, and readers will not lose any context or meaning necessary to enjoy the story if they do not.

Which brings me to the story itself, and I will not give a summary, as it has been done by others and probably better than I could. Let me say, though, that I was greatly impressed by the author's obviously thorough research that resulted in very pleasing historical authenticity. Osborn's character, and the love story between him and Lou are written with such delicate and gentle sensitivity; it is portrayed in such tender scenes, it couldn't but resonate in me, the reader. It was not possible for me to finish this novel in one go. I had to pause frequently to cherish the feelings evoked in me, like a gourmet lingers over a particular delicacy.

There is truly nothing negative I could say about this book.

My sincere thanks to NetGalley and Barnes&Noble for the ARC in return for an honest review.
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Prior to the American Civil War, photography and embalming the dead were newly invented arts and sciences. Osborn Roche is a well-respected battlefield and postmortem photographer during the Civil War. He also has autism. When Osborn meets Lou, a young woman dressed as a man to work as an embalmer for the Union, he realizes that she is also on the autism spectrum, and they quickly become friends. Lou's father believes his daughter should never marry or have children due to her condition. Will Osborn and Lou be able to find the life they want and deserve?
From page one, this novel enthralled me. Several people in my life have autism, and I appreciate books that address this condition. Unfortunately, I think the author "cures" autism too neatly. 
The historical aspect was interesting. I enjoyed reading about the photography and embalming processes. 
The romance was also touching, innocent and heartwarming.
Although I jumped into the series in book 2, I wasn't confused. I do want to read all the books in this series, though!
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In the midst of the Civil War, an autistic postmortem photographer, Osborne Roche, bumbling through battlefields with his nephew, meets a father/daughter embalming team. The daughter, Lou, is also “peculiar,” dresses in men’s clothes, and spends her days, like Osborne, with the dead. Period photographic techniques and embalming history are adroitly woven into the story. Collodion is used in both early daguerreotypes and embalming, and becomes a metaphor for Osborne and Lou’s relationship. I appreciate that throughout the story there is equal treatment of both Union and Confederate soldiers, with neither being portrayed as the “good guys” or the “bad guys,” but just young men, sometimes boys, being thrust into a situation beyond their control. 

Osborne has an endearing ritual of riffling through the pockets of the dead that he photographs in order to get a sense of who they had been as a person; using what tidbits of knowledge he discovers, he creates fictitious anecdotes as if they knew one another. He tells his nephew that this method is the only way he’d ever have friends. Later, he meets Lou, his first real friend. Lou constantly taps her fingers and Osborne can’t shake hands or touch anyone. He doesn’t understand social cues, politeness or jokes, and neither of them can tolerate loud noise or strong smells. They bond over their exceptional way of facing the world and feel comfortable only around one another.

As much as I enjoyed the sweet eccentricity of Osborn and Lou, I was disappointed with the rushed ending. I got the feeling that the author enjoyed sauntering through the story, slowly developing his characters, and then was told to wrap it up. Maybe he had a deadline? The ending of the story was dramatic, but I felt whooshed through what should have been the most heartfelt part of the story. 

Many thanks to Netgalley for the advance copy.
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I had never heard of this author before, but the description of the book sounded really intriguing and I wanted to give it a try. It was a really good historical fiction taking place during the civil war. It brings up the subject of autism, which is not talked about enough in literature. I really enjoyed this book.
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I think with Collodion the story line is great. I love the time period and subject matter, and it was easy to imagine being in the photographers position; particularly on the Civil War battlefields. However, for my own personal opinion, it was not an easy read. I think the reason behind that was that I get really invested in the characters and just could not connect to them. Greg Morgan has a very likeable imagination and huge potential so I can seehow this book in the right readers hands would be a hit. It just wasn't for me. I thank Netgalley for the opportunity to read and review it.
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First of all, I have not realised that this book is the second one of the series until I have finished. Yet it it was easy to read as stand alone piece. 
Secondly, I loved the topic and the chosen era... It's not only interesting story. It is the peculiar story. That would probably describe it best.
Well done researched American history and history of photography - something as photographer myself I could relate. Through light humour one of the highlights is the mental health. Avoiding any spoilers it could make, I will leave it up to readers to find out.
It's not your usual story with predictable ending. 

The only little downside that I have spotted is mixed American/British slang, some words questionably fitting into the time/era described. It is not majorly distracting but something that could be improved on.

All in all, great read.
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I chose the book Collodion because I was intrigued by the premise. Lou and Osborn were written well as were the rest of the characters. It's clear that a lot of research went into writing them and about the Civil War time period. I had never realized that several different photographers and embalmer followed the different troops around to different battles. Learning how involved and precise these arts were was fascinating. I'd also never heard of a"weeper", as a lifelong profession, before. 
There's just so much history to glean from this book!
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What a highly unusual story!  A man and a woman meet during the Civil War.  Both display behaviors that would probably put them in the autism spectrum if they had lived today.  The man, Osborn, is a famous war photographer.  Lou is an embalmer, kept busy by the carnage of the American Civil War.  They meet and discover that they have much in common.

The relationship progresses, much to the chagrin of Lou's father.

I was unaware that this was the second book of a series, so don't know if either character appeared in the first book, or if the stories can stand alone, but center on the Civil War as a theme.  

Peoples' reactions to Osborn vary widely.  If they know he is a renowned photographer, they are more tolerant of his behavioral idiosyncrasies.  If not, they call him unkind names.

Since a number of real-life characters populate the story, I would have welcomed information as to whether Osborn and Lou were based upon anyone in particular.  A Thomas Roche was a Civil War photographer and Lou's father did indeed embalm Willy Lincoln.  But I can find no mention of an Osborn or a Lou.  It would be interesting to know.

I recommend the book.  It's unusual and clips along at a good pace.  There is tragedy, misunderstanding, and injustice enough to keep one's interest.
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‘Collodion’ has it all and Greg Morgan develops this storyline much in the same way as Osborn Roche, the Civil War and post mortem photographer tells a story through his pictures. 
Osborn is well respected and autistic. When he meets Lou, (an autistic woman dressed as a man) working as a Union army embalmer, he notices her eyes similar in beauty and shade to his mothers and they become friends. Lou is the daughter of Henry Cantrell, the embalmer of Abraham Lincoln and his young son Willy. Henry is opposed to the growing friendship of his daughter and Osborn, believing his daughter should not fall in love, marry or bear children due to her autism. Lou is taken away by her father and Osborn is alone and shattered without her.
Fate is found to be a friend. Osborn Roche has become a famous photographer and has published a book about the Battle of Corinth. At a book signing, he is reunited with Lou who is attending with her uncle. Osborn learns that Lou’s father is planning to have her sterilized. With no other option, Osborn and Lou run away, marry and are once again be the focus of Henry Cantrell’s threats, thwarts and challenges.
This is a page turning read with an intriguing plot that twists, turns and surprises.
Thank you NetGalley and Greg Morgan for an ARC in exchange for an honest book review.
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