PERSONAL: Education: Attended the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, and the College of William and Mary, VA.
ADDRESSES: Home— Somerset, England.
CAREER: Journalist and writer. Has worked for the Alliance of Religion and Conversation (ARC), Bath, England. Previously worked as a journalist in Hong Kong, China, including five years as editor of the South China Morning Post and as a weekly radio commentator, then for Reuters in London, England, and Scandinavia.
Colour: Travels through a Paintbox, Sceptre (London, England), 2002, published as Color: A Natural History of the Palette, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including the London Times.
SIDELIGHTS: A longtime journalist, Victoria Finlay left her position at the South China Morning Post to write Color: A Natural History of the Palette, published in England as Colour: Travels through a Paintbox. In addition to presenting what amounts to the story of each color, including what specific colors mean to various people in different societies, the author also presents a book that is part travelogue as she recounts her various journeys, such as her search for the ochre Australian Aborigines once mined, and her visit to Chilean plantations to learn of the red chochineal beetles.
Writing in Kirkus Reviews, a contributor referred to Color as “a well-rounded exploration of the properties and associations of colors from an engagingly personal vantage.” The reviewer went on to note: “The writing is tight, yet her warm, anecdotal approach keeps the reader engaged.” In his review in Biotechnic & Histochemistry, Jim Elsam wrote that “this book is a large collection of small stories and, if one thinks of a story as something that carries us toward understanding, Finlay hits the spot both in the carrying and the destinations.” A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote: “Thanks to Finlay’s impeccable reportorial skills and a remarkable degree of engagement, this is an utterly unique and fascinating read.”
Finlay was inspired by an engagement ring from her fiancé to write Jewels: A Secret History, published in England as Buried Treasure: Travels through the Jewel Box. In her book, the author presents some of the world’s most valuable gems, from the malleable amber to the hardest gem in the world—the diamond. As in her previous book, Color, Finlay provides a travelogue to accompany her explanation of the myths and popularity surrounding the gems she focuses on. For example, she describes how her search for the origins of gems led her to the Egyptian desert, a Baltic beach, and many other locales, where she interviews miners, gem cutters, sellers and others associated with the gem trade. The author also presents numerous anecdotes about gems, such as the story of a cat skeleton that turned into opal.
In a review of Jewels in Booklist, Kristine Huntley noted that “this rich, comprehensive book will no doubt appeal to jewelry lovers.” Jo Sargent, writing in the Geographical, called the book “a captivating rummage through the various gems our planet produces” and “a fascinating volume.” A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that the book contains “many sparkling anecdotes about jewels.” John De Falbe, writing in the Spectator, noted: “This book plainly involved a huge amount of travelling, but it is only significant as it illuminates the scarcity and mystique of the gems. The point is always what Finlay finds when she gets there, both the stories and the stone itself.”
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES
Biotechnic & Histochemistry, February, 2004, Jim Elsam, review of Colour: Travels through a Paintbox, p. 53.
Booklist, December 1, 2002, Donna Seaman, review of Color: A Natural History of the Palette, p. 636; August 1, 2006, Kristine Huntley, review of Jewels: A Secret History, p. 22.
Geographical, July, 2006, Jo Sargent, review of Buried Treasure: Travels through the Jewel Box, p. 83.
Guardian (London, England), April 29, 2006, Veronica Horwell, review of Buried Treasure.
Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Color, p. 1587; June 1, 2006, review of Jewels, p. 555.
Library Journal, February 1, 2003, Jack Perry Brown, review of Color, p. 82; August 1, 2006, Regina M. Beard, review of Jewels, p. 101.
Publishers Weekly, December 16, 2002, review of Color, p. 58; May 29, 2006, review of Jewels, p. 47.
Spectator, June 30, 2006, John De Falbe, review of Buried Treasure.
Time International, December 16, 2002, Tim Mcgirk, “The Color of Passion: British Adventurer Victoria Finlay Embarks on a Journey to Discover the Cradles of Our Colors,” p. 50.
Curled Up with a Good Book, http://www.curledup.com/ (January 18, 2007), Poornima Apte, review of Color.
Random House Web site, http://www.randomhouse.com/ (January 18, 2007), Mo Wu, “A Conversation with Victoria Finlay.”*