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Girl Reading

3.51  ·  Rating Details ·  2,093 Ratings  ·  266 Reviews
This stunningly original, kaleidoscopic novel is an inspired celebration of women reading and the artists who have caught them in the act—“a vivid portrait of a timeless subject” (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

A young orphan poses for a Renaissance maestro in medieval Siena. A servant girl in seventeenth-century Amsterdam snatches a moment away from her work to lose herself in
ebook, 352 pages
Published February 7th 2012 by Scribner (first published May 1st 2011)
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Community Reviews

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Sep 02, 2011 Kinga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an excellent book and you might wonder why I haven't given it five stars. Many people have given it five stars and they are right. I, however, am mean and stingy with my stars. Girl Reading is Katie Ward's first book, and I am quite certain that she will give me some five star material soon. She is probably writing something five-staresque as we speak.

Girl Reading is really a collection of short stories posing as a novel. I think I can see a trend there - does it mean that publishers ar
Lottie Chase
The old saying goes ‘you don’t miss something until it is gone’. In this book I really missed speech-marks. Call me lazy but I quite like to be able to identify who is talking by a slight flick of ink on a page. Speech-marks are important and whether you are trying to be literary or challenge your readers you should understand that readers have grown up with speech-marks and are not about to have them whisked away like some forlorn apostrophe I could mention.

I did struggle with Girl Reading and
Georgiana Derwent
I found it really difficult to decide on the appropriate rating for this book, swerving anywhere between three and five stars. When I first heard about it - seven linked stories on the subject of pieces of art showing a girl reading - I was torn between two conflicting thoughts: "wow, sounds like a great and unusual concept," and "sounds a bit overly pretentious, the author must be going all out to get her Booker Prize nomination." Having read it, I think that both of these thoughts are true to ...more
Jul 28, 2012 CuteBadger rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I’ve been putting off writing about my views of this book as I really didn’t enjoy it and only finished it because I was sent it to review. When I looked online after reading it I found that I’m definitely in a minority as lots of readers, both famous and anonymous, are hailing it as the best thing since the literary equivalent of sliced bread.

I really can’t agree, as the emotion I felt most often while reading it was irritation. For a start it’s described as a novel, but it really isn’t one. I
Susan Anderson
Aug 02, 2011 Susan Anderson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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, often surprising, usually delightful.

From the start we are caught up in the characters, the stories of young women who read. We watch with them. We weep with them. We wonder, what comes next. In short, most of the time we can’t turn the page fast enough, except for those passages
Jun 10, 2012 Sarah rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this, I was completely immersed and when I had finished the seventh section I went back to check out the links and connections I thought I could see. I haven't read a book that has engaged me this much for ages.

I see from earlier reviews that others have struggled with the lack of punctuation and have found the jump from one story to another rather disruptive. I didn't have either of those problems, I think I have developed a style of reading for books like this (based on readin
Jan 22, 2012 Anna rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is really a series of short stories disguised as a novel. The theme of art featuring women reading is repeated in each of the seven stories and more clearly defined in the final story; however, it is not prominent enough in some of the chapters to really warrant packaging this as a novel rather than short stories.

I think it is a cynical attempt to sell more copies of this book by pretending that it is a novel not a short story collection.

The writing is flawed in other ways - there are no pu
Mark Patton
Katie Ward's debut novel is a book of extraordinary scope and vision. Like Cloud Atlasor If on a winter's night a traveler, it consists of a number of stories, seemingly separate, but in fact intricately related, and in such a way that the book as a whole is very much greater than the sum of its parts. In this case the theme which links them is of an image of a girl or woman reading a text. There are seven chapters, eached based around the production of an image by an artist (Simone Martini Annu ...more
Deborah Pickstone
4.5 stars

This book contains two things I really don't like and would normally put a book down over: it is written in present tense (third person which is marginally less bad than first person present) and it is written as a series of barely linked short stories, which I rarely read because they are......short. I was further put off by the cover having a promo quote from Hilary Mantel assuring me it is a great novel - I can't abide Hilary Mantel's writing. However, the subject matter looked suffi
May 03, 2012 Shannon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Some books are quiet books. Gilead comes to mind. As does Jim the Boy. These books don't bowl you over or yank you into the storyline. Instead they slowly, quietly and persistently invite you into their world. Girl Reading is a quiet book. In it, Katie Ward takes you into the world behind seven works of art. Each world is fully fleshed out. Each character different from the last, yet engaging. Each time I left one world and moved on to the next, I wanted more. I like a book that leaves me wantin ...more
MaryannC.Book Fiend
A nice little gem of a book. I am not usually one for stories because I feel like I'm let down when the story ends quickly and I want more, but I didnt want to miss out on all good things I heard about this book and I was glad I gave it a try.
Apr 15, 2017 Misbah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Actual 2.5

This was a brilliant idea and I loved the general premise but I couldn't get on board with the writing style and feel it failed to execute its mission.

My favourite-and-very-specific genre of books are those about painters and paintings (if we want to get more specific Dutch paintings of the golden age) so this should have been perfect for me. Each chapter moves to a new story based on a real painting of a woman shown reading, there is so much to explore here; the relationship between
Feb 09, 2015 Patrick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
While flicking through the opening pages of this in my local library I was surprised to note that the first chapter was sat in the city of Sienna, during the early Renaissance, with a particular focus on the hospital of Santa Maria della Scala. One of the oldest examples of a purpose-built hospital in the world, I visited this exact place on holiday just under a year ago. Not only that but there was a mention of the hospital oratory on the lower floors, the experience of which I wrote about last ...more
May 04, 2011 BookAmbler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have met the author through BookCrossing so I was a little nervous about reading this book on account of Katie and I once disagreed completely on The Accidental by Ali Smith. I was concerned that Girl Reading was going to be a book I hated! Also, although it is hailed as 'seven portraits', to me it's seven short stories; I must be a lazy reader because I find short stories too much like hard work and rarely read them. I was finding the 'girl reading' theme very tenuous until the final story wh ...more
Okay, I really liked the concept. The writing was quite good. I liked how the stories weren't really connected, yet every now and then a painting from one story was mentioned in another story (and they're all mentioned in the last story, which takes place in the future). I liked that there were some real paintings, then some fictional photographs, which were based on real carte de vistes and Flikr photos. And I liked how there was a futuristic story to tie things together. But in the end, I just ...more
Dee at EditorialEyes
3/5. This and other reviews at EditorialEyes Book Blog
Seven women in seven different eras contemplate reading and art in Katie Ward’s ambitious debut novel Girl Reading. Each section introduces a new story, a new set of characters and circumstances, and a new work of art that was inspired by and includes the likeness of a girl or woman reading. In doing so, Ward gets to create rich stories in different time periods while discussing the nature of art and the role of reading in women’s lives.

Karen Mace
This was a little more miss than hit for me but that isn't to say I didn't enjoy reading it! Loved the fact that it was short stories set over different time periods in history and featuring a common thread, but for me some of these stories were more captivating than others and at times I lost my love for the stories and my mind kept wandering!

It was beautifully written, and some of the characters and settings featured were extremely interesting and fascinating but overall I just didn't get the
Mar 22, 2012 Ali rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having seen a lot of chat about this book through various online sources – and read some interesting reviews, I managed to catch the last twenty minutes of The TV book club programme which featured an item about this novel. Everyone was very enthusiastic about it and so I bought the book from Amazon that same evening. I have to say however that I don’t like the cover art of this latest edition – I have seen the art of the earlier edition and like it much more – I know that doesn’t or shouldn’t a ...more
Dec 24, 2014 Annie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical

This is more of a collection of interlinked short stories rather than a novel. All the stories are focused on one premise, a girl or woman reading and captured in art in that way. The first story takes place in 14th Century Italy, at the dawn of Renaissance painting, and the last story takes place in the year 2060, well into the future.

Ward travels centuries to bring this story to its conclusion, and that is what makes this novel (or rather, collection of short stories) so fantastic. She w
May 29, 2012 Grace rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I could write a long review of this, and maybe I will..okay, maybe I'm writing it now.I liked the idea for this book, stories about paintings and photos of women reading, I wish I had thought of it ad written it, though maybe I have thought of a different way to think about it :).The way it was written for the most part wasn't my style nor what I would have thought of when I saw the pictures,but just for the concept, this is one of my favorite books.I wish the book had illustrations of the image ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Alyson rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh dear, where to start? After two chapters this was going to be a one star rating, and I was about to abandon the book, but, the next story was better so I stuck at it. As many other reviewers on here have said, I feel misled by this being called a 'novel' on the back. It's not. It is a book with six independent short stories, and one final short story which provides one thread which connects the six to the 7th, (but not the six to each other).

I don't feel the author's writing/research/knowledg
David Hebblethwaite
In Girl Reading, Katie Ward imagines the stories behind a number of portraits of girls and women reading; the portraits range in past time from Simone Martini’s Annunciation (1333) to a photograph on Flickr in 2008, and a concluding chapter set in 2060 provides context for the previous six. Ward has a distinctive writing style that creates a strong atmosphere for each of the time periods, and allows her to weave in details very subtly. I’ll single out her portrayal of Gwen – a girl in love with ...more
I loved the premise of this book. Fictional tales weaved from looking at pieces of art and imagining the circumstances surrounding its creation. Unfortunately, it took me a while to warm to the author's style. Her writing is quite pretentious, foregoing speech marks and other basic grammar in what appears to be a warped attempt to make the book more literary. I could never warm to this style, however I did enjoy the last few stories much more than the previous ones. This is surprising for me, as ...more
Raj K Lal
Mar 28, 2013 Raj K Lal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Katie Ward writes about seven portraits and artists, and the lives of seven girls and women reading, all living in seven different time periods between 1333 and 2060. Each world is different but so well created that I felt as though I was there, witnessing the lives of the characters created by the writer. There is a depth to the writing which brings worlds and people alive, makes them real and believable. There are clever, subtle links which tie the stories together. Yet each story feels like a ...more
Jun 01, 2012 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I admired many things about this novel - the intensity of the language, the vivid imagery and strong characterisation, the way the unusual structure stretched conventional boundaries - but what I enjoyed most was the exhilarating sense of having travelled, imaginatively, far and wide, through history, and into the future. With a quality of strangeness which is at first unsettling but becomes magnetic, the novel explores human imagination. In many ways, the form of the novel echoes its content.

Jan 14, 2012 Joanna rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was really looking forward to this book. The description on the back and the structure seemed interesting. In reality I think the author tried too hard to be clever. The lack of speech marks and clear delineation between time frames annoyed me more than I would have expected. It made the stories confusing and I finished several of them without having a clue what the ending was meant to mean. I nearly gave up after the first story and again after the third but on balance I'm glad I carried on. ...more
Anne Donohoe
Apr 09, 2012 Anne Donohoe rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gave-up
It takes a LOT for me to put down a book. I've suffered through a lot of.... Tough books. But I need to realize when it's just not worth it and stop wasting my treasured reading time!

I am only like 124 pages in and it's been WEEKS! I just find myself not being able to follow each story and am spending so much time rereading! I also think I'm not evolved enough to read a book without the use of quotations!!! So as much as it PAINS me - I have to "put 'er down" - I'm sorry!!! I feel the need to ap
Jan 31, 2014 Raluca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Such beautifully woven stories exposed through colorful details. I was enthralled by the portraits of women discovering themselves and being discovered in different stages of life, in different times and places, the different stories behind their invisible scars and the weights that burdened them, the pealing off the layers of their soul. Such enchanting compositions created by a complex imagination.
May 18, 2012 Michelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book, although I'm not sure I agree that it's a novel. It's a collection of short stories about fictional artistic works; the works are explored in chronological order, and the last story ties the works (and thus the book) together. Sorta.
Nov 16, 2013 Linda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting look at art/reading and it's relationship to the real world. The novel is developed through a series of short stories with the final story linking the past to the future and art to our life.
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Girl reading ending 4 36 May 02, 2012 09:14AM  
Mesh is here! (Almost) 1 14 Apr 05, 2012 09:48AM  
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Katie Ward was born in Somerset in 1979. She has worked in the public and voluntary sectors, including at a women’s refuge and for a Member of Parliament. She took a career break in order to write her debut novel, Girl Reading, after coming across an article about a book of portraits of women and girls reading.

Girl Reading is published by Scribner (US) and Virago (UK).

Katie lives in Suffolk with h
More about Katie Ward...

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“Sometimes love is not enough to bind us to the world. What is beautiful may also be finite.” 9 likes
“Sibil is white. Not Caucasian but white: as sheet ice as new paper as porcelain, from her braids to her bare feet. Not a blemish, not a variation, every feature of her—hair, skin, pupilless eyes—smooth like the inside of a shell, dazzling like a torch, as though carved from a single radiant white stone. Likewise her ornaments—her beads and star pendant, diadem, hoop earrings, the pedestal she rests on—are made of the same ghostly matter. She clasps in her casual hand blank pages, a skinny book with its cover torn off.” 0 likes
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