Readalong: Girl Reading by Katie Ward #1

Cover Girl Reading by Katie Ward

Girl reading by Katie Ward is a collection of short stories that interweave women, books and art in various ways. It is called a novel, but why they do that eludes me – at least right now. So far I have read two stories and found them quite good, but not too overwhelmingly so, to be honest.

In general, I found the way of not putting direct speech in quotation marks rather confusing. At first I had no clue that someone was talking and then when I realized that that was so I didn’t know who it was. Sometimes the spoken sentence even started in the middle of a line, and without quotation marks I found this hard to follow. Later on my brain must have partially adjusted itself to this, because I didn’t seem to have so many problems with it anymore.

The first story is about an orphan in 14th century Siena who gets to sit for a famous painter for an altar piece. What I found most interesting was the painter’s progressive attitude towards the different religions. I can’t imagine that his opinions were very popular and that his clients would have been very happy to know about them. The girl’s approach to art (what you see is what you get) reminded me a lot of myself. I like or dislike a painting without looking for some deep symbolism or trying to analyse every little detail.

The second story about a deaf maid in a Dutch painter’s household reminded me A LOT of Girl with a Pearl Earring. With a jealous wife, the relationship between maid and painter, a snooping child, careless parents (did anyone else find the choking incident rather odd?),  I found the whole atmosphere in the household quite disturbing. I very much liked the maid though, a strong and tough woman indeed.

More to come in a few days, I am a slow reader.


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4 Comments Write a comment

  1. I felt quite the same about the quotation marks although usually that doesn’t bother me but it was done in a strange way. While I didn’t think the book was bad I thought it was too mannered and annyoyed me. Even after having read the last story I still felt it isn’t a novel. I’m curious to hear what you will think.
    There are some very good stories but I found them MUCH TOO similar to other books I’ve read.
    I also think I should have read them more slowly.
    A pity Judith couldn’t finish it. I usually like short stories.
    Caroline’s last post ..Katie Ward: Girl Reading (2011)


    • Yes, I agree with you that a slower read is the better choice. I will wait a couple of days before the next story. It’s odd with short stories, since they are not necessarily connected one needs a break in between.


  2. Yes, short stories… they don’t work for me so well. I tried two and a half, and that was enough. But it wasn’t just that they were short stories, the actual content of the stories also bothered me.

    For instance, page 1, first paragraph tell us that the main character is a few minutes late. That put me off straight away.Why? We’re in 1300-something and people don’t have watches. They have sun dials, and yes, maybe there is a church clock with the exact time, but in general, I could not imagine that people would be thinking in terms of minutes, rather maybe in terms of “a little over the hour” or something like that. (I could be wrong and people (like her, at least) would be using minutes all the time.) Anyway, that bothered me.

    I also didn’t like the setting, the church, that much. And the second story was very much like the first in a lot of aspects, I think. In my mind, I can hardly keep them apart. And yes, it also reminded me of The Girl with the Pearl Earring.

    I actually liked the non-quoted speech – it made the story very quiet, as if people were thinking aloud rather than actually having a conversation. It fitted the stories well.
    Leeswammes (Judith)’s last post ..Pay It Forward Giveaway Hop – Winner!


    • Ah, Judith, I never even noticed that with the minutes. I tend to read over details like this, but you are right, and if I had noticed I probably would have gone on about this for a whole paragraph.
      Also agreed about the church. I am not that bothered, but I can relate only very little to people who base decisions on teachings of the church.

      You are right about the speech, it does seem like thoughts rather than the spoken word, but I didn’t like it. People either say something or only think it and I don’t want to guess whether it was the one or the other. I like to know where I stand.


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