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Girl Reading: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner (February 7, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451655908
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451655902
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,165,352 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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

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

Too bad as it's an interesting premise.
Reading Advocate
I finished reading the book last night, and I now want to read the book again, in the knowledge of its ending.
V. Grand
The book is a must for all serious readers interested in history and the direction of literary fiction.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By V. Grand on June 9, 2011
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on June 16, 2012
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Saved on August 1, 2011
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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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Fact checking! on April 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Half-way through the third chapter, I was waiting for the characters to check out their Facebook pages in the midst of the melodrama. How convenient that all attitudes align so perfectly with modern mores. Let's just pluck people out of one time and stick them in another. Barbara Cartland is more believable.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By E. Adams on September 16, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I loved this book. I liked all the stories. Many different kinds of relationships described with compassion and insight. It was fun to research the paintings. Looking forward to more books by this new author.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kiki VINE VOICE on September 8, 2012
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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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Patrice Fagnant-macarthur VINE VOICE on March 14, 2012
Format: Hardcover
<Spoiler Alert!>

I had seen very positive reviews of "Girl Reading" by Katie Ward and decided this was a book I definitely wanted to read. A novel about the stories behind works of art that depicted girls reading? This was a combination of several of my favorite things - history, art, and reading. When I saw a copy on the "new" shelf at my favorite local library, I grabbed it with enthusiasm. I eagerly delved into its pages.

The first chapter, based on Simone Martini's "Annunciation," painted in 1333, reminded me a bit of "Girl with a Pearl Earring" by Tracy Chevalier. The story was engrossing, but one thing kept jumping out at me. There were no quotation marks and no attributions to speakers of any kind. It was incredibly distracting. While my brain finally adjusted to the literary device and it became less noticeable, it still seemed to distract from the mission of the book - to reveal the secret lives behind the works of art.

A second question that presented itself was why this was called a novel when it was actually a collection of short stories. Admittedly, they were all united by theme, but that can be true of a short story collection as well. It wasn't until the last chapter that the stories were tied together and I understood why this was, in fact, a novel.

It turns out "Girl Reading" is actually science fiction! The last chapter takes place in 2060 when people live largely in a virtual world known as mesh. They wear i-specs almost all the time which allow them to interact with people and places in a simulated fashion. The previous chapters have been courtesy of "Sybil," a type of artificially intelligent being that could look at art (only these selected few works so far) and reveal glimpses of the mysteries existing beneath.
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