Girl Reading reads like a collection of short stories, with each of the seven tales shifting in time and space, crossing the centuries and continents and focusing on a different, totally unrelated female character. It is only the final chapter, set in the future, that explains how they all vaguely tie in together, but I won't spoil the surprise. At one point, the narrator explains: "They are all representations in one way or another of the literate female [...] of a woman or girl reading a book [...] But they are not connected to each other in any meaningful way as far as we can tell."
The central theme of each portrait is, as the title suggests, a girl reading and what this represents in each scene. Artists' perceptions and symbolism add extra hidden depth to the stories and the various historical settings bring a different set of morals and viewpoints to each portrait too.
I couldn't help but feel that the individual chapters were, in a sense, the victim of their own success though. They were so well written, I was totally absorbed and wanted to find out more, needing to discover more about each woman's motives, circumstances, past history and future, so I was left feeling slightly short-changed when the focus shifted to a new character, leaving the previous one dangling. This is a feeling I often have when reading short stories, which is why I tend to avoid them.
It's an interesting concept and one that will fuel many a lively university tutorial or book group discussion.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £7.99
- Paperback: 352 pages
- Publisher: Virago (5 Jan 2012)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1844086879
- ISBN-13: 978-1844086870
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.
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