Summary

An orphan poses nervously for a Renaissance maestro in medieval Siena, and an artist's servant girl in seventeenth-century Amsterdam snatches a moment away from her work to lose herself in tales of knights and battles. In a Victorian photography studio, a woman holds a book that she barely acknowledges while she waits for the exposure, and in a Shoreditch bar in 2008 a woman reading catches the eye of a young man who takes her picture.
©2011 Katie Ward (P)2012 Oakhill
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Critic reviews

"Ward is wise, poised, and utterly original. Her eye and her words are fresh, as if she is inventing the world." (Hilary Mantel)
"A wonderful , imaginative evocation . . . It's a book packed full of adventures and stories and you completely lose yourself in them as Ward races through time from the 1300s and into the future . . . Like David Mitchell, Ward is equally adept at shifting between completely different registers and voices . . . Girl Reading has real beating heart." (Viv Groskop, The Times)
"A lively, irreverent journey through history." (Katie Allen, Time Out Book of the Week)
"If you're planning to pack any holiday books this year, make sure Girl Reading is one of them." (Cosmopolitan)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
3 out of 5 stars
By Miss P. on 23-02-12

Good so far but strange narration!

I am only part way through this audiobook so far, and am enjoying the story, however the more I listen and think about it the weirder I find the narration.

It's hard to explain. The non-dialogue bits are fine; slightly whimsically read and I quite like it. The dialogue parts however are quite peculiar. In all other audiobooks I've listened to the narrator "acts" the speeches rather than just narrating them, using the intonations and expressions as if they were actually being spoken. Dialogue/conversations/speeches in this audiobook are not performed this way; instead they are read, often very quickly with no pause before the speech, as if they are still being "narrated" rather than spoken by a character. It can make the book quite hard to follow and it is often difficult to distinguish between general narration and characters speaking.

I hope this makes sense! It's difficult to put my finger on why I find it harder than other audiobooks to follow. The excerpt in the sample doesn't really demonstrate the issue as much as it could, because in that short clip the voices are "acted" more than elsewhere in the book.

By no means would I advise people against the book for reasons of the narration; I just find it requires a lot more concentration than others I have "read".

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3 of 3 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By Melissa on 22-03-12

Experimental and Refreshing

"Girl Reading" is a strange animal - neither novel nor anthology, it falls somewhere in between. Ostensibly these short stories appear linked only by the central image of a girl or woman posing with a book, either for an artist or a photographer, but this would be cheapening the novel by several degrees. Each story occurs at a different time in history; we see the humble, pious woman of the 1300s; the society woman of the 1700s; the businesswoman of the 1800s and the political woman of the 21st century. In essence, it is a chronicle of the emancipation of women. The final story also offers another, unexpected parallel between the stories - but I won't say anymore. Spoilers!

Written entirely in the present tense, the narrative style is also worthy of note; I'm one of those readers that needs the prose to be sophisticated, at least as much as the story. "Girl Reading" reveals the worlds it inhabits by use of carefully-chosen details, never over-saturating the reader with unnecessary words. Though it requires concentration to fully enjoy this refreshing sort of style, it's a very rewarding way of engaging with the characters and the author alike.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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