Girl Reading by Katie Ward

The seven stories contained within Girl Reading by Katie Ward all feature artworks of women or girls reading. The art itself ranges from a 14th century triptych to a photograph to a pencil sketch to a futuristic sensory experience: the culmination of all that came before. While the first four stories are graceful, poetic, and, in many ways, startling and moving, the last three are also lovely and reflect aspects of the earlier stories in meaningful ways. As each of the first four stories unfolded I found myself believing each to be my favorite in the collection. So naturally, the second, third, and fourth are each my favorite for a different reason. The second features a 17th century deaf girl who is servant to a painter who takes his inspiration from her in an unexpected way. The human aspects of the characters–the deaf servant, the household’s eldest son, the bitter second son–all are thoughtfully written. The third story surrounds an 18th century artist visiting the home of a recently bereaved and consequently somewhat crazed and depressed friend. The nature of the bereavement unspools slowly while the cause is left mysterious. The power of the character’s grief is written with compassion and understanding. The fourth story reminds me of the best 19th century ghost stories and also of Edith Wharton’s excellent short story “Roman Holiday.” The twins at the center of the tale are very different creatures who share a unique ability. Each story nicely describes the time period about which it is written. Like a delightful sampler plate of delicacies, each has its own taste and flavor and sentiment. Exploring the original works of art online is a pleasure (where they exist!), but the novel can be savored even without the accompanying pictures. Katie Ward’s delightful and beautifully written novel is worth reading and sharing.

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