Monday, 22 October 2012

Girl Reading by Katie Ward

I first heard about this book on The TV Book Club and thought it sounded interesting. It is structured as a series of short stories, though all are linked. The first story takes place in 1333, and then we make our way through history until we're in the future, in 2060.

All the stories are about the making of images of women reading. The first one is about a young orphan girl named Laura, living in Siena, who is chosen to be the model for a painted alterpiece. The second is about Esther, who works as a servant in the house of an artist in Amsterdam. As we move through the book we see the styles of art develop, through painting and photography and computer graphics. Also the roles of the women change. Laura and Esther have very few choices in their lives, whereas the later women are more empowered.

I think my favourite story is set in 1916 and is about Gwen, a 15 year old girl who is staying at the house of Cynthia Everard, an academic. I think that Ward captures Gwen beautifully. She is so self-centred and dismissive of people, including Cynthia, who she pities for being unmarried and dressing badly. Gwen is in love with Laurence Fern, an artist who is also a guest of Cynthia. When an elegant, sophisticated lady friend of Laurence's arrives, Gwen is devastated.

Gwen slides to the floor in a heap, for there is nowhere on the ample furniture to rest a spirit as battered as hers. Armchairs are too good for her. She must feel the woe and discomfort in her whole body, even in her knees. She must assume the position of melancholy. She is suffering, her heart is in shreds. Laurence Fern, behold your greatest work.

I loved this book and raced through it. I think it would be an excellent choice for a book club, with lots to discuss.

4 comments:

  1. This does sound very interesting, I like that the stories cover such a wide time span. I've added this to my wishlist :)

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    1. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did Sam.

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  2. This has been on and off my wishlist like a yoyo, the problem being that I love the concept but am not a big fan of short stories. I might investigate it at the library!

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    1. It didn't really read like short stories, each one just flowed into the next. I rarely read short stories, but I enjoyed this. I hope you do too.

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