Born in a Salvation Army Home for unmarried mothers (there was no room in the local hospital), James Reeve was sent, age six, to the then inevitably eccentric prep school. Following five years of misery at Rugby School, a scholarship took him to Oxford, but after only three months this seemed not the place to pursue a mission to paint; so he removed to Florence and then to Madrid where the Real Academia Bellas Artes de San Fernando was unique as an art school in providing instruction in Anatomy. Here he enrolled to study for five years, and observe the dissection of vagrants' corpses in the morgue. Then to his surprise, a Divine Revelation in the Metro convinced him to enter the enclosed Order of the Jeronomites in Segovia as a novice. But at length the intense winter cold, the rigours of nightly interruptions to pray, and a diet of water and lentils, persuaded him (and the Prior) that, after all, he should rejoin the world and begin in earnest to paint. From a slum house in London, James Reeve set forth to work in (then) remote places: Uganda, Jordan, the Australian Outback, Haiti, Madagascar, Rajasthan, the Yemen ... and at last he found his proper home in Mexico: first in a house he built in a cloud forest, and then when tourists discovered the place, a tenement in the old centre of Mexico City. When it became obvious that Britain's National Health Service would soon trump the surreal enchantment of Mexico, James Reeve retreated finally to Somerset where he continues to paint and now to write.
"James Reeve belongs to that rare breed of artists who can write. .
. . It is a delightfully entertaining, if often shocking, memoir,
an escapist antidote to our lockdown times. . . . Reeve has an eye
for vivid detail and captures the absurdity of life with aplomb. .
. . The book is as quirky as it is quixotic, and all human life is
here."-- "Daily Mail (UK)"
"Narrative artist James Reeve has never kept a diary, instead writing his long, detailed letters home from his extensive, worldwide travels. Finding these by chance in a trunk, carefully tied up with string and dated and labelled by his mother, he has used them as the basis for this part-memoir, part-travelogue and illustrated it with vividly colourful vignettes of experiences and encounters."-- "Artmag"