"It was reassuring to be so obviously and visibly like one’s father. But at the same time, he knew it must have been what irritated Iris; placing him against everything she did or stood for. As a child, unaware as he grew more like Charles, he must have been a camera obscura, projecting his father’s image out of the darkness of his disappearance." (166)
Bart's development is handled organically, building out of the fast-paced plot and mystery that drives the story forward from Perth to Paris, and ultimately into Malta, where Dingli's deep knowledge of the country of her birth becomes evident in the care that is taken over creating the primary setting of Camera Obscura:
"The cliffs were well over a hundred metres high, the sea below illusory and immobile, like an aerial shot on a postcard or book. Deep blue, the colour of sapphires, attested to the depth of the water. The cliffs went on underneath to goodness knew what depth. It was a magnificent place: grandiose, making his head spin."(299)
As Bart discovers the island he also discovers his long-lost father Charles, through the journals provided by Charles' partner Stella De Cortis. These journals are presented as a secondary story projected through the Camera Obscura of time and distance, with the recently deceased Charles revealing his guilt, his longings, and his impressions posthumously to his son.
The effect is powerful, as Bart's allegiance to his father helps him grow through discovery, both intellectual and visual, that keeps the novel fresh and exciting. Throughout Bart's story is his camera - recording the visual impressions of Minnie, of Malta, of Stella and her beautiful villa. He's a man on a pilgrimage to find himself, though it takes him most of the novel to find this out.
Through careful layering of mystery and character development, Rosanne Dingli has created another deeply engaging and powerful novel in Camera Obscura. As is always the case with Dingli's work, the research is impeccable, enlivened by art, by a deep love of travel and exploration, and above all, by the conjunction of personal and global, art related, history.