Girl Reading - Katie Ward
Seven portraits. Seven artists. Seven girls and women reading. A young orphan poses nervously for a Renaissance maestro in medieval Siena, and an artist's servant girl in 17th-century Amsterdam snatches a moment away from her work to lose herself in tales of knights and battles. A young woman reading in a Shoreditch bar catches the eye of a young man who takes her picture, and a Victorian medium holds a book that she barely acknowledges while she waits for the exposure. Each chapter of this richly textured debut takes us into a perfectly imagined tale of how each portrait came to be, and as the connections accumulate, the narrative leads us into the present and beyond - an inspired celebration of women reading and the artists who have caught them in the act.
This book spans the course of many centuries and is in essence 7 short stories. The book transcends the development of women over time for the most part as well as introducing an array of different characters for you to immerse yourself into. Katie Ward takes real images or portraits and engulfs them with stories of the people within them and their lives, she moves from very popular portraits to a photograph uploaded to someone's Flickr.
Overall this book was enjoyable but I was disappointed that I didn't feel too much for the characters. Because there are so many of them and they are dealt with very quickly there wasn't enough information for me to be truely immersed into their characters. The character I did feel connected to was part of the longest story in the book and she was Jeannine, her character was based around our time and was involved in political debate. This all came from an image of her sitting at a bar, they story around this one was very inventive and entirely the authors own working.
Ward does a very good job at creating stories from specific images which she openly reveals to you in both her narrative and a 'note' section at the end. She inspires creativity from the women who are all seen to be intelligent, literate beings which often overcome males. In a way I this book would strike me as feminist with the strong female characters and shows the repression of them at earlier periods of time.
This was an enjoyable book and the stories do tie off nicely with the final piece set in the future. A well researched first novel from Katie Ward and I would be interested to see what she writes next!