Excerpt from The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Printmaker's Daughter

A Novel

By Katherine Govier

The Printmaker's Daughter
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • Paperback: Nov 2011,
    512 pages.

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


And my black eyes did not close.

In years to come he did call me Ago-Ago, when he remembered, but most often he just called me.

"Hey, you. Come here!"

I was born in a hard time.

We the townspeople led an unmarked existence. We had rights to nothing, only to witness the grand shogun's parade: the march of the doomed man to the Punishment Grounds, details of his crime painted on the placard he carried over his shoulder. We fed on brown rice and whispers of love suicides. The mouths of our actors were red gashes. We, the chonin, had one name - and no face.

In the years before my birth there was an artist called Sharaku. He made gargantuan faces with vast white, empty centers marked only with deep black lines for eyes and mouths spread in rage or fear or greed. But few people bought these pictures - they came too close to home, I think - and before long Sharaku and his work disappeared. Some people said he was a Noh actor and died of poisoning from the white face makeup. Other people said Sharaku was my father. They said that after this first failure he renamed himself and went on, and the proof that he had been Sharaku was that he never painted a big face again.

I don't know if that was true. My father told me much, but not that.

It was true about the faces, though: my father could draw anything that moved and much that didn't - dancers, elephants, oarsmen, mountains, gods, and devils. Waterfalls and waves stopped for his brush. Fuji showed its one hundred moods. But he never made a face. Eyes, nose, and mouth - for him these were only a few short, sharp lines, and that was it. Maybe the gossip was true and he thought faces wouldn't sell. Maybe he wanted distance from his past. Maybe he wanted distance from us all. Henceforth, to him, we had no faces, only burdened backs and sinewed buttocks, slim thighs and crinkled toes and dancing torsos.

Oh, but such bodies we had. Such glories were in them. They were our prized possessions. By these bodies, we were making ourselves into people. Before I was born we were not quite human, according to our masters. The bakufu - a tent government set up on a field of war two hundred years before - kept the Tokugawa shogun in power. But as the eras passed, the bakufu remained. There were no wars; we didn't fight with swords. We fought with words and pictures. Our pictures and our little storybooks cost pennies. But they had a strange power. They gave us news, gossip, celebrity, mementos. They celebrated the only pleasures we were allowed - Kabuki theater and love affairs and the small indulgences for our bodies.

The Tokugawa could not attack us directly; there were too many of us. Instead the enforcers attacked the messengers, our pictures; they called them decadent and tried to destroy them.

Think of all that clanking samurai power directed at these fragile sheets of paper. I want to laugh. Pictures and words don't hurt anyone, except for those who are afraid of history. The bakufu aimed their laws at our insubstantial world. There were to be no pictures of the Tokugawa. Any reference to how they came to rule was punishable by death. Famine and flood might ravage the country, but to note such calamities would be a criticism of the shogun, who ruled celestial events as he did lesser beings. Therefore they were not to be acknowledged.

We appeared to obey. We told ghost stories and repeated legends from times past, and went to plays about the love affairs of great courtesans. We put our faith in unnatural creatures - demons and gods and ghosts. Our gossip traveled through whispers and pulpy yellow-back novels. We sang and danced and devised outrageous dress. The bakufu bogeymen uttered ordinances and staged clampdowns. They did not stop us, but they kept trying. They were a constant backdrop to my life, from my first squalling through my middle years until I was almost old enough not to care. Then, suddenly, they were gone. But that comes at the end of the story.

Excerpted from The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier. Copyright © 2011 by Katherine Govier. Excerpted by permission of Harper Perennial. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Gemini
    Gemini
    by Carol Cassella
    How good is Gemini, Carol Cassella's book about a Seattle intensive care physician who becomes ...
  • Book Jacket: The Goldfinch
    The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for Fiction.

    Her canvas is vast. To frame a story about art, love and ...
  • Book Jacket: Toms River
    Toms River
    by Dan Fagin
    Winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Nonfiction

    In Toms River, investigative journalist Dan Fagin ...

First Impressions

Members read and review books ahead
of publication. See what they think
in First Impressions!

Books that
expand your
horizons.

Visitors can view a lot of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only

Find out more.

Book Discussions
Book Jacket

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Published Apr. 2014

Join the discussion!

Who Said...

From the moment I picked your book up...

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

P Your O C

and be entered to win..

Books thatinspire you.Handpicked.

Books you'll stay up all night reading; books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, books that will expand your mind and inspire you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.