The Book of Mechtilde

Front Cover
Knopf, 1997 - Art - 85 pages
A beautiful modern-day illuminated manuscript created by a young Jamaican artist who weaves together in words and paintings the story of her mother's life and death. Anna Ruth Henriques began the extraordinary pages that would become The Book of Mechtilde at the kitchen table in her grandparents' house outside Kingston, Jamaica, where she grew up. She was twenty-two years old, and for the next seven years she worked on it as an act of love, to both celebrate and mourn her mother, Sheila Mechtilde Henriques, who had died of breast cancer when Anna was eleven years old. Inspired by texts from the Book of Job, Anna tells her mother's story - her youth, her love for her husband and their happy marriage, the birth of her daughters, her slow illness, death, and final peace - all in the form of a fable, sometimes in prose, sometimes in poetry. Each scene is illustrated with a painting encircled with calligraphy and set in a gold border of flowers, fruit, or symbolic creatures. Both the story and the paintings are enriched by Anna's remarkable family heritage - Jewish and Christian, European, African, Chinese, Indian, and Creole - and by her amazing drive to use her enormous artistic gifts to transform loss into a passionate celebration of life.

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