As we scramble to find the perfect gift, stress has become a constant companion, whether we like it or not. The only way to put that stress in a time-out is to enjoy one of our own. For me, lounging on the couch and reading a good book is a proven remedy. All the stress melts away as I enter a new world and escape into a new story.
And that is what I did amidst the flurry of work, gift buying, and lack of funds. I came out of my 'mind spa' more alert, yet somewhat wistful.
'Girl Reading', the first novel by Katie Ward, was a pleasure to read. Each chapter travels through history, and tells the story of a particular woman and a book, and the people who paint or photograph them. The first chapter begins in 1333 Italy, and the final chapter, which ends in 2060, nicely ties together the whole novel. The stories, which are written with great care and intelligence, require time to ponder, to wonder if the way we live now was the same back then. And we discover that no matter how progressive we may seem, evolution has not changed the way we feel about love, longing, and art. The choices we make, we soon discover, have not changed at all.
I loved each and every chapter, but my particular favorite takes place in 1864 England, when spiritualism and all things metaphysical were the rage. A set of twins have a special connection, and when one of them decides to travel a more 'normal' path, you realize that no matter how different their lives have become, the unique gift they share remains steadfast.
Ms. Ward has a great talent for narration; the inner voices of each character are beautifully exposed. As each chapter traveled through time, I admired how well she could surround me in the trappings of another era...and make me long for more when the chapter ended.
Although this superb novel won't be released until February 2012, I suggest putting it on either your personal list of 'books to read', or on your reading group list. I promise that it will promote a great discussion about women, art, and books.