I anticipated reading this novel for a while, and was pleased to finally get a copy from the library. It seemed to take me a few tries to get into the first chapter, but once I achieved an interest, I pretty much finished the book in an evening or two.
What attracted me to this novel were blurbs about the book, calling it "a time machine!" And of course, the title, Girl Reading...isn't that what I've been all my life? The book's chapters are each the story of one girl or woman and one "portrait," be it a painting, or some other from of art. In each chapter there are thinly veiled references to previous chapters. Each chapter is also set in a different time period as well.
Some of the writing was really entertaining and clever and fun. It wasn't so long ago that I read Cloud Atlas, and while much more complex and complicated, in both the story and structure, I couldn't help but be reminded of that novel as well. Not every chapter was all that memorable. My favorite chapter was so clever and wonderful though, I doubt I will ever forget it. Victorian twins meet again and one takes the other's photo, but they are not your ordinary run of the mill women. The chapters almost stand on their own as short stories.
As the book and chapters evolve, we end up in a very different world that we hardly recognize in the future. Clever and wondrous, Ward manages to create knowable characters and a world we can believe, although it has become quite different from our present one.
Go here to see portraits that inspired Katie Ward when she wrote the book.
This book is Cloud Atlas meets Girl with a Pearl Earring.