Giving life to the portraits of women
Their names are Laura, Ester, Maria, Rosemary, Florence, Gwen, Jeannine, Sincerity and Cloud. Separated by place and defined by the context of history, together their stories weave the rich narrative tapestry of Katie Ward’s debut novel, Girl Reading. Divided into chapters that deal with the trials and triumphs of each particular protagonist, the novel proves a fascinating testament to the universal themes of art and literature and the spirit of femininity, despite the limitations of time.
Impressive research and a dynamic voice combine in Katie Ward's compelling debut novel, which tells the stories of women in several different eras.
In each section, Ward imagines the hidden story behind an actual artistic representation of a woman reading. She explores each individual’s background, dreams and personalities—the intimate truths that their portraits do not reveal. The birth of the Renaissance in Siena marks the opportunity for a young girl to pose for a triptych. A Dutch maid is desired by her master. In 1775, artist Angelica Kauffman makes a journey to finish a portrait for a reclusive heiress. Victorian England provides the setting for the saga of estranged twin sisters, where photography and mysticism intertwine. A young girl falls in love with Impressionism and an artist during the Great War; a woman in modern London questions her choices in life and love before being snapped reading at a bar by a photographer. And in the near future, the experience of art is reformulated by an artist and engineer, herself troubled by the effervescent nature of technology and truth.
With each woman’s story, Ward adds layers of significance and depth, crafting her prose with a beauty and vitality that matches the scale of art entwined in her work. Readers are engulfed in the distinct world of each heroine through extensive detail and rich characterization, enhanced by larger ideas about women’s positions as mothers, lovers, muses, leaders and survivors. Impressive research and a dynamic voice create an unforgettable story that will leave readers pondering the mystical relationships between women, literature and art.