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Birds On My Brush


In April 1763, unknown artist and naturalist, Elizabeth (nee Symonds) Gwillim was born in England. She accompanied her husband, Henry, to Madras, India, in the 1800s, where she died in 1807. In London, England, in 1924, a Dr. Casey Wood, surgeon and ornithologist, discovered in an 'out of the way shop of arts', Elizabeth Gwillim's watercolour paintings. Today, 2009, these painting, painted two decades before Audubon published his illustrious Birds of America, are part of the Blacker-Wood collection of Zoology and Natural History, at McGill University, Montreal, Quebec. Prints of several of her painting of India's birds are included in this novel. 

Birds On My Brush is a novel based on the few known facts of the life and untimely death of Elizabeth Gwillim. My character, Sarah Purcell, was born in the spring when birds were chirping the birth of their new offspring. As a child, and later as and adult, Sarah was obsessed with sketching precise details of the birds. She married William Cantwell, a barrister determined to live in the land of his boyhood hero, Robert Clive, and English hero in India's development. Sarah's younger sister, Rose Purcell, accompanied them on this journey. Rose's tortured dream of death in India hampered her enjoyment of this new life.