Reviews

‘Girl Reading is a debut of rare individuality and distinction.  Katie Ward inhabits each of her seven scenes, her seven eras, with a fluent and intuitive touch, and sentence by sentence, deft and mercurial, she surpasses the readers’ expectations.  What is set down on the page has a rich and allusive hinterland, so that the reader’s imagination has a space to work, and what is unsaid has its own fascination.  The writing is full of light and shadow, alive with fresh and startling perceptions. Ward is wise, poised, and utterly original. Her eye and her words are fresh, as if she is inventing the world.’ Hilary Mantel
‘This is a real wow of a first novel. The premise is alarmingly simple and yet somehow stunning … It’s a book packed full of adventures and stories and you completely lose yourself in them as Ward races from the 1300s into the future. But it’s also a meditation on what it means to be a reader and to be captured in the act … Each story is beautifully self-contained. This is the book’s great strength: the perfect, separate, involving worlds it creates. Like [David] Mitchell, Ward is equally adept at shifting between completely different registers and voices. But though this novel is both technically accomplished and intellectually challenging, it doesn’t show off and is not intimidating, which gives it a real beating heart … her talent sings off the page.’ Viv Groskop, The Times
Book of the Week: ‘Katie Ward’s assured debut is inspired by that mysterious and provocative subject of a thousand visual images: a woman reading . . . In each chapter Ward twists a story around real works of art. Her seven unpredictable tales serve up a lively, irreverent and even feminist journey through history.’Time Out
‘Each of the stories are completely different from each other, but make a truly wonderful arc and a lovely whole. It’s such a satisfying piece of work, and brave.’Caroline QuentinTV Book Club
Pick of the Paperbacks: ‘An impressive debut … each vignette is a masterfully drawn miniature.’The Telegraph
Book of the Week: ‘Ward’s characters are so utterly relatable that you’ll feel you know them after a few sentences … The sketches she composes are an invitation to the “girl reading” (that’s you!) to go further on your own, to imagine the characters’ next chapters, or even their whole lives, to enjoy the infinite imaginative possibilities offered by a finite portrait. If you dig into the stories … you’ll discover, as one of Ward’s characters says, that “there is a world under” each and every one.’Oprah’s blog, Life Lift
‘It’s so delicately nuanced and as you go through each chapter, suddenly all the recurring themes start weaving themselves together so by the end chapter, I was so moved … I thought it finished off the book beautifully.’Meera SyalTV Book Club
‘This debut should appeal to a wide but discerning readership. Not for Katie Ward the coming-of-age first novel starring a barely disguised over-sensitive heroine airing her resentments: Girl Reading reads as though its author is five books down. She has plunged straight into a series of difficult challenges, her handling of time and place accomplished with authority, skill and knowledge. If the basic idea is simple, reminiscent of the classic writing class exercise in which students are made to produce a tale inspired by an art postcard, the result is a complex showcase for Ward’s talents.’Joanna Briscoe, The Guardian
‘With concise prose that probes to the heart of its subjects’ thoughts, the stories explore the concerns and hopes of the women – the transient emotional contexts of the portraits’ enduring legacies. Absorbing, and written with a deftness that intertwines illuminating insight and poignant omission of detail, these stories create worlds richly textured with emotional complexity. Intense, moving and beautiful.’Easy Living
‘There’s something here that reminds one of Katherine Mansfield’s short fiction.’The Boston Globe
‘This evocative, substantial book, in the tradition of A.S. Byatt, deserves a close reading.’The Washington Post
Book of the Week: ‘This isn’t a novel – it’s a time machine! Well, nearly. As each chapter transports you to a completely different century, you’ll find yourself wondering if Ward has her very own Tardis … I guarantee the stories will relate to your own life in some way – if you’re planning to pack any holiday books this year, make sure Girl Reading is one of them.’ Cosmopolitan
‘The women depicted in seven works of art offer glimpses of female-centered worlds across time, in an ingenious British debut … Ward’s style is atmospheric, poetic and dexterous, often exploring interior worlds lit by powerful emotion.’Kirkus Reviews
‘Read in one sitting as a novel or over time as short stories, “Girl Reading” is a vivid portrait of a timeless subject.’Minneapolis StarTribune
‘A panel painting teeming with life … “Girl Reading” is fun and fleet-footed. Ms. Ward renders her settings in bright detail and shows her characters at captivating moments.’Wall Street Journal
Hot Read: ‘Seven scenes come together into one slide show … the best thing about this story is what’s not told: silence, mystery, and what’s outside the frame converge, showing that even the imagination can be—must be—limited … The title is deceptive: the strength of this promising debut is not in “reading,” but in “seeing”.’The Daily Beast
‘We forget, often, that artifacts survive us, but survive they do, and that is one of the points that Katie Ward makes in her fascinating new novel, “Girl Reading.”’The Brooklyn Bugle
‘Let me echo the book’s last word: Engrossing!’Washington Independent Review of Books
‘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 … Girl Reading is an intricate tapestry of a book, and one that leaves me with little notion of what Katie Ward may write next, though I do know that I’ll want to read it.’Follow the Thread, David Hebblethwaite’s blog about books
‘This is a very good novel indeed, a debut of rare promise. Seven sections that seem at first to be seven separate short-stories (though at the end the whole is tied-together fairly neatly). Each of these is a two-inches-wide piece of ivory on which Ward has worked with an admirably fine brush … The writing is coolly, beautifully controlled: unflashy but lucid and modulated with genuinely impressive technical deftness, always expressive and lovely to read … All in all: very classy.’Adam Roberts
‘Katie writes with frankly sickening (to another writer) skill – she has that rare ability to within a line or two put personalities into your head where they stand up and start walking about under their own power . . . A luminous, beautiful, fascinating book. Buy it and read it.’Lloyd Shepherd
‘Is it a novel or is it a collection of short stories? Well, if you can believe this, I think it is both … Amazing stuff … Katie Ward is a pretty special new voice and deserves to be read.’Harriet Devine’s Blog
‘From the very first pages, telling the tale of on an orphan posing for a Renaissance artist painting the Annunciation on an altar in 1333, Girl Reading is rich and immersive, with painstaking attention to detail, pitch-perfect dialogue and description, and vivid, lyrical language … Overall, Girl Reading is innovative and enchanting; a unique and compelling concept that skillfully imagines and unravels the context of these untold stories.’ For Books’ Sake
‘Other than the lack of speech marks throughout the book (pernickety, I know), Katie Ward’s ‘Girl Reading’ is astoundingly good … Verdict: Ward has gifted us with a debut novel full of charm, attention to detail, originality and imagination.’ Percolate Magazine
‘This is a rich debut that fans of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas will enjoy.’ Psychologies
‘A kaleidoscopic rendering of intellectual women from the Renaissance to the present.’ Ms.
‘With each woman’s story, Ward adds layers of significance and depth, crafting her prose with a beauty and vitality that matches the scale of art entwined in her work. Readers are engulfed in the distinct world of each heroine through extensive detail and rich characterization, enhanced by larger ideas about women’s positions as mothers, lovers, muses, leaders and survivors. Impressive research and a dynamic voice create an unforgettable story that will leave readers pondering the mystical relationships between women, literature and art.’ BookPage
‘You never hear much about the women that posed for Da Vinci or all those wonderful artists … She wants us to understand our art better, understand these forgotten women, literature, all those things.’Carole E. BarrowmanTV Book Club
‘It’s an incredible book.’Dave SpikeyTV Book Club
Night in feature: ‘Induce serious sunlounger envy with these hot reads … The arty one’Fabulous
‘When a cameo by Rembrandt and a reference to Flickr comfortably exist in the same book, you know the author has done her work … An exquisitely rendered celebration of women and reading in seven portraits.’Shelf Awareness
‘Creative and clever.’Fine Books & Collections
Girl Reading by Katie Ward is an inventive debut which takes as its starting point seven portraits of girls and women reading. Every chapter imagines a tale around how each portrait (from Renaissance altarpiece to Victorian photography) came into being. Everything about this book, from concept to execution, feels intelligent and original.’ The Bookseller
Each segment ends with questions or reflections on the meaning of life and how it moves forward. Ward’s character development led me to empathize with most of the sinners as well as the saints.’ Powell’s Books ‘Daily Dose’
‘If your idea of a good book is one that transports you to different times and places yet speaks to current issues – and you don’t mind some initial disorientation – climb onboard … What’s the connection between these stories – beyond depictions of women with their heads bent over printed pages? Trying to figure out the link is, in part, what keeps us reading, so I won’t give away Ward’s surprising and utterly audacious climax … Girl Reading, with its intricately worked, wide-ranging scenarios, rewards the careful reader and would make a great book group selection, with plenty of latitude for discussion. It’s an impressive, intelligent debut.’Barnes and Noble Review