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Cecily's Portrait

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Click on the links to visit the recommended websites or to print out a plan of the house.

Girls behind the Camera

House plan of No 6 Chelsea Walk in 1895

Adobe PDF

Victorian photography

Famous artists in Cecily's time

Life in late Victorian times

The Victorian era spanned many decades, from 1837 to 1901. The story is set near the end of the era, in 1895.


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About this book

The Historical House
Cecily's Portrait

  • A touching and beautifully crafted tale of hope and ambition, full of authentic historical detail and girl appeal.
  • Part of the engaging Historical House series, which charts the life and times of 6 Chelsea Walk and the girls who have lived there through some of history's most fascinating periods.
  • Includes internet links to recommended websites where readers can find out more about the history of photography.
  • Adèle Geras was born in Jerusalem in 1944. Her first book appeared in 1976 and since then she has published over 80 titles for children and young adults.

Cecily longs to learn the new art of photography and is determined that her widowed father will come to love it too, especially when she realises that her new friend and photographer, Rosalind, would be a perfect match for him. Will her dreams of uniting them ever come true?

Adèle Geras

Adèle Geras

Adèle Geras studied languages and taught French before becoming an author. She has since written 84 titles for children and young adults, including Troy, which was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children’s Book Award and Highly Commended for the Carnegie Medal. Adèle is married with two grown-up children and two grandchildren, and she lives in Manchester.

Visit the author’s website,, for more information.

Press Reviews

The premise of Usborne's Historical House series is a delightful one: a single house in Chelsea forms the backdrop for a set of stories spanning 200 years. Written by three acclaimed authors, each focuses on an atmospheric period.
In the earliest, the house is a boarding school and the book focuses on the arrival in London of the young Mozart and his sister. Its subtext is an implicit indictment of 18th-century mores.
Cecily's Portrait, set in the 1890s, revolves around developments in photography. The warm family story incorporates conversations about contemporary works of art and a running argument about the relative merits of photography and traditional portraiture.
Art remains an underlying theme in Andie's Moon, set over the summer of the first moon landing in 1969 and featuring the bohemian array of fashion and pop music on the nearby King's Road.
These are engaging novels, immaculately researched and quietly informative. They can be read in any order; those who read them all will be thrilled by the occasional links that draw characters together across generations.

Kate Agnew, Education Guardian, Critic's Choice May 2007
Adele Geras kicks off the story in 1857 with Lizzie visiting her cousins in London, the elder of whom has been inspired by Florence Nightingale. By 1914 the house is divided into flats and Linda Newbery takes up the story with Polly befriending a couple of suffragettes who move in. The final story is set in 1941, when Ann Turnbull’s heroine Josie is staying with her cousins to escape being ostracised when her brother Ted becomes a conscientious objector. All three books stand alone, but girls of eight to 11 will want to read them all and will enjoy the historical detail in each.
Times Educational Supplement
The Historical House series provides the opportunity for three highly acclaimed writers to explore the life of a London house and its inhabitants from 1857 to 1941. There are three main focal points in the texts: the house’s physical changes through the years, meticulous and informative details about domestic life, ethos and culture and, finally, the developing roles and expectations of women at critical periods in history. Crucially, the writers have maintained authorial independence, giving them a clarity of voice and diversity of style, but the books are linked by the motif of the walnut tree and by the challenges which their female protagonists have to face.
Books for Keeps
The three stories in The Historical House series share a setting while exploring an individual period. In Adele Geras’ Lizzie’s Wish, girls seek education and an active role in society, while their successsors in Linda Newbery’s Polly’s March are after the vote. By the time of Ann Turnbull’s Josie Under Fire, surviving the London blitz and a changing world order has a become the preoccupation. Historically strong, these are also dramatic stories with a real sense of atmosphere.
Julia Eccleshare, Pick of 2004 - The Guardian
The Historical House is a new series that cleverly sets three stories by well-established writers in the same London house, but at different periods of history. The lead character in each is a girl around 12 years old. Lizzie's Wish by Adele Geras is set during the Crimean War. In Polly's March, by Linda Newbery, Polly is fascinated by the suffragettes who move into the flat upstairs, and Ann Turnbull's Josie Under Fire takes place in 1941 during the Blitz. The writers have collaborated over their work and although each story stand alone, characters from earlier periods occasionally put in an appearance in the later novels.
Kathryn Ross’s Pick of the Year, The Scotsman
Highly recommended read. A touching and authentic historical tale with plenty of girl appeal.
Red House Children's Book Award Magazine 2008
Geras catches the social mores of the age as well and offers her readers a glimpse into the restrictions expected of females. Cecily cannot visit Rosalind without her father's permission, and he sees the Templetons as only just respectable. Mr Bright is something of a mid-Victorian pater familiaris, and Miss Braithwaite expects Cecily to conform to the 'angel in the house' view of feminine behaviour. Rosalind, however, is a nascent New Woman: she has her own career and she's prepared to argue with her father about the validity of photography as an artist's medium. Modern Girls might find this story a touch quiet, but it certainly illuminates the 1890's zeigeist.
Historical Novels Review - Issue 46, November 2008

Reader Reviews

Cecily's Portrait
This is the third book in the series that I have read and I enjoyed it as much as the others. I am really getting to know Number 6 Chelsea Walk well and have bought the other three books ready to continue the series.

Christopher Tovey, 30th May 2011

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Also by Adèle Geras

6 Chelsea Walk

The Historical House

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