Girl Reading by Katie Ward
This book is a collection of several stories linked by the idea of artistic portrayals of young women reading. The varied settings flavor each story and the endings of each are mostly indeterminate, leaving the reader wanting more. In medieval Italy, a poor orphan girl sits for a triptych of the Annunciation; in the Dutch Renaissance, a servant woman is captured in a stolen moment with a book; in Georgian England, a mourning aristocrat commissions a portrait of her deceased friend and lover; and a modern London woman poses for a quick photo with her book in a bar. The final story ties the other stories together, as a sci-fi future conceptual artist invents a device that immerses viewers into individual narratives surrounding a particular piece of art. In its conflict between the artist’s career and her family, that final story affirms the value of real, embodied life and physical objects over virtual reality and computer-mediated relationships. It’s an interesting and imaginative exploration of literacy and the different meanings it can have in various contexts.