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Girl Reading: A Novel Hardcover – February 7, 2012
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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
“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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.
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.