Girl Reading

A Novel

Girl Reading

This stunningly original, kaleidoscopic novel is an inspired celebration of women reading and the artists who have caught them in the act—“a vivid portrait of a timeless subject” (Minneapolis Star Tribune).

A young orphan poses for a Renaissance maestro in medieval Siena. A servant girl in seventeenth-century Amsterdam snatches a moment away from her work to lose herself in tales of knights and battles. An eighteenth-century female painter completes a portrait of a deceased poetess for her lover. A Victorian medium poses with a book in one of the first photographic studios. A girl suffering her first heartbreak witnesses intellectual and sexual awakening during the Great War. A young woman reading in a bar catches the eye of a young man who takes her picture. And in the not-so-distant future a woman navigates a cyber-reality that has radically altered the way people experience art and life.

Each chapter of Katie Ward’s novel immerses readers into the intimate tales behind the creation of seven portraits by artists, ranging from Simone Martini to Pieter Janssens Elinga to a Flickr photographer. In gorgeous prose, Ward explores our points of connection, our relationship to art, the history of women, and the importance of reading. Dazzlingly inventive, this is “a fascinating testament to the universal themes of art and literature and the spirit of femininity” (BookPage).
  • Scribner | 
  • 368 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781451657326 | 
  • February 2013
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Read an Excerpt

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for Girl Reading includes an introduction, discussion questions, ideas for enhancing your book club, and a Q&A with author Katie Ward. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


In this delicately crafted and richly imagined novel, Katie Ward conjures up the backdrop, characters, and stories captured in seven portraits of women reading throughout the centuries. Told in seven chapters, Girl Reading breathes life into static art and creates entire worlds for the stories’ subject—from a young orphan posing for a religious painting in 1333 to a weary, career-minded woman being photographed in a bar in 2008. In Girl Reading, Katie Ward takes readers behind the canvas and into the yearning, painful, secretive, and hopeful lives of women who read, and the artists who capture them in the act.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1.  Have you read any other books that tell stories inspired by works of art? How do each of the writers use visual art as a springboard for their fiction?

2. Girl Reading has a unique structure—the book is comprised of seven chapters, each inspired by the creation of a different piece of art in a different cent see more

About the Author

Katie Ward
Joanne Rodger

Katie Ward

Katie Ward was born in Somerset in 1979. She has worked in the public and voluntary sectors, including at a women’s refuge center, in the office of a Member of Parliament, and in various community-based projects. She lives in Suffolk, England, with her husband and two cats.


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