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Girl Reading: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2012

3.5 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Seven stories spun over seven centuries are connected by a slender, yet tensile, thread. Just like classic novel plots, certain artistic motifs are repeated, reimagined, and reinterpreted again and again through the centuries. Ward takes six existing (and one wholly imagined) portraits of women reading, fashioning fascinating fictional accounts of both artist and subject for each one. Beginning with Simone Martini’s Annunciation (1333) and culminating in the not-so-distant future with a climactic tale revolving around the only image that is a figment of the writer’s imagination, these thematic chapters have much to say about the nature of womanhood, relationships, and the creative process. Though sure to evoke comparisons to Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, this book-club natural stands on its own merits. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

“A real wow of a first novel…incredibly clever.” The Times (London)

Book of the Week: "Katie Ward’s assured debut is inspired by that mysterious and provocative subject of a thousand visual images: a woman reading . . . In each chapter Ward twists a story around real works of art. Her seven unpredictable tales serve up a lively, irreverent and even feminist journey through history.
Time Out (London)



Book of the Week: "This isn’t a novel – it’s a time machine! Well, nearly. As each chapter transports you to a completely different century, you’ll find yourself wondering if Ward has her very own Tardis … I guarantee the stories will relate to your own life in some way – if you’re planning to pack any holiday books this year, make sure Girl Reading is one of them." Cosmopolitan (UK)

"Girl Reading is a debut of rare individuality and distinction. Katie Ward inhabits each of her seven scenes, her seven eras, with a fluent and intuitive touch, and sentence by sentence, deft and mercurial, she surpasses the readers’ expectations. What is set down on the page has a rich and allusive hinterland, so that the reader’s imagination has a space to work, and what is unsaid has its own fascination. The writing is full of light and shadow, alive with fresh and startling perceptions.” –Hilary Mantel, author of the Man Booker Prize winning Wolf Hall

"Ambitious in range and technically impressive...[Girl Reading] is undoubtedly the work of a writer to watch." --Kirkus
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781451655902
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451655902
  • ASIN: 1451655908
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 1.2 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #940,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Katie Ward was born in Somerset in 1979. She has worked in the public and voluntary sectors, including at a women's refuge and for a Member of Parliament. She took a career break in order to write her debut novel, after coming across an article about a book of portraits of women and girls reading.

Katie lives in Suffolk with her husband and her cat. She likes lots of things, including: city breaks; bubble baths; Earl Grey tea; books; watching DVDs of The West Wing and Mad Men; theatre; pyjamas; dancing; and art.

www.katieward.co.uk
Tweet me @katiewardwriter

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
How to describe a book like Girl Reading? Comparisons have been drawn with Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, and I understand why. Several stories, all with one thing in common - they are based on a picture of a woman reading a book. Each story is complete in itself, and sufficiently compelling to draw you in.... you suspect there's a connection, you vaguely wonder what; then when you get to the end and find out what you have been reading... it is a truly unique and amazing story. I finished reading the book last night, and I now want to read the book again, in the knowledge of its ending. This book is original and captivating. Highly recommended!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Can't turn the page fast enough. In Girl Reading, a debut novel, Katie Ward paints seven portraits of girls reading--their lives, their conflicts, their passions, their griefs. The author's prose is rich, her syntax spare, exact, sometimes provocative, sometimes surprising, usually delightful. From the start we are caught up in the characters, the stories of the young women who read. We watch with them. We weep with them. We wonder, what comes next.

On its skeletal level, the work yolks together two disciplines--painting and writing. As a painter uses tempera, oil, camera, or video to paint a picture that tells a story, so this author uses words to create the same. Seven stories--each one evocative of a unique dilemma; and the characters, almost flesh and blood, reflect their age. Seven ages of the human race flow from and ping back to seven images. In the end, a synchronicity: the last section knitting together all parts into a whole, and, with a start, we discover the story at its heart, the unity of the work.

The reader comes to a deeper understanding of the early and late Renaissance, the Victorian era, the twentieth century, the present, and beyond. Themes include humanity's inability to see, to know the truth, given the social constructs and limitations which inhibit understanding. And the core image of a girl reading, in this context, is ironic.

The book is a must for all serious readers interested in history and the direction of literary fiction.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Six out of the seven short stories were interesting even though the book itself wasn't what I expected at all. (I think I'm just not cut out for the short-story genre.) It was a good read as each story could be read at one sitting - and they were all very different from each other.

Girl Reading
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Format: Hardcover
I anticipated reading this novel for a while, and was pleased to finally get a copy from the library. It seemed to take me a few tries to get into the first chapter, but once I achieved an interest, I pretty much finished the book in an evening or two.

What attracted me to this novel were blurbs about the book, calling it "a time machine!" And of course, the title, Girl Reading...isn't that what I've been all my life? The book's chapters are each the story of one girl or woman and one "portrait," be it a painting, or some other from of art. In each chapter there are thinly veiled references to previous chapters. Each chapter is also set in a different time period as well.

Some of the writing was really entertaining and clever and fun. It wasn't so long ago that I read Cloud Atlas, and while much more complex and complicated, in both the story and structure, I couldn't help but be reminded of that novel as well. Not every chapter was all that memorable. My favorite chapter was so clever and wonderful though, I doubt I will ever forget it. Victorian twins meet again and one takes the other's photo, but they are not your ordinary run of the mill women. The chapters almost stand on their own as short stories.

As the book and chapters evolve, we end up in a very different world that we hardly recognize in the future. Clever and wondrous, Ward manages to create knowable characters and a world we can believe, although it has become quite different from our present one.

Go here ([...]) to see portraits that inspired Katie Ward when she wrote the book.

This book is like Cloud Atlas meets Girl with a Pearl Earring.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Katie Ward writes about seven portraits and artists, and the lives of seven girls and women reading, all living in seven different time periods between 1333 and 2060. Each world is different but so well created that I felt as though I was there, witnessing the lives of the characters created by the writer. There is a depth to the writing which brings worlds and people alive, makes them real and believable. There are clever, subtle links which tie the stories together. Yet each story feels like a short story. Each story is unique. When each story ends, you want there to be more, to know what happens next to the protagonist and sometimes also to some of the people around her.
There is a debate whether this is a novel or a book of short stories. For me, it doesn't matter. If anything, it adds to the intrigue. What matters is that it is excellent writing which made me want to read on and on, and all too soon, I had reached the end of the book. And I am still wondering what happened to some of the characters... An exellent, haunting, painful, beautiful read.
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