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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
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,334,931 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall I liked the short stories and wasn't disappointed to read. The Angelica Kauffman story was the one that saved the book for me and I believe that was solely due to the subject matter of having lost someone you love and the situation that I'm currently in. It was just one of those stories that you connect with and speaks to you more because of what you're going through. My problem with the other stories is I had a harder time getting into the minds of those characters.

The last story Sincerity Yabuki Sibil is set in the future and the one that ties all the other artwork together and stories together and does so quite interestingly and strongly. I liked especially that it dealt with the way we looked at art and life and interconnection in the future. What happens when most of our lives is based in artificial reality? What happens when we never get to see real art but only representations? What if we could interact with works of art?

But I didn't connect with any of the other stories as much as those or find any of them that interesting. The lack of quotations, as others have pointed out, was distracting and annoying. In some of the stories I would have liked a little more about the art itself. So I liked the book overall but only based on two stories and only for personal reasons did I connect with the one story so deeply.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Hilary Mantel, the award-winning author of Wolf Hall, is a big fan of Wards, and this prompted me to try her out. The resemblance between the two writers is clear - stylistically they are very similar. But Ward doesn't have Mantel's ability to combine great, vivid writing with narrative drive.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Here are some things this book is not: a linear narrative, a short-story collection, a feminist manifesto, a treatise on art. Although it has much in common with all of these, it is something else entirely: a portrait gallery curated with a perceptive and inventive eye that is more than the sum of any of its constituent elements.

Seven portraits of female figures reading are a jumping off point for vignettes that illustrate the context of each, introducing characters of their time and themes of balancing independence and love in the changing and eternal tides of life. Most leave the reader wondering what happens next, what happened when the subject closed the book and went on about her life? Because the story is of the picture, not the woman, nor the book. It is about the connection that art creates across centuries, the ways that modern viewers interpret and re-interpret the same image, about the ways our stories change and the ways they are always the same story.

Wander through Katie Ward's book like a small room in an art gallery. Consider each work in turn and the commonalities of the room. What, besides the subject matter, drew the curator to these pieces? What does each tell you about itself? About yourself? Your time in this gallery may not change your life, but it will open your eyes a bit wider.
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