Recounting the story of her life, Oei plunges us into the colorful world of nineteenth-century Edo (Tokyo), in which courtesans rub shoulders with poets, warriors consort with actors, and the arts flourish in an unprecedented moment of creative upheaval. Oei and Hokusai live among writers, novelists, tattoo artists, and prostitutes, evading the spies of the repressive shogunate as they work on Hokusai's countless paintings and prints. Wielding her brush, rejecting domesticity in favor of dedication to the arts, Oei defies all expectations of womanhood - all but one. A dutiful daughter to the last, she will obey the will of her eccentric father, the man who
Vivid, daring, and unforgettable, The Printmaker's Daughter shines fresh light on art, loyalty, and the tender and indelible bond between a father and daughter.
First published in Canada as The Ghost Brush
Introduction to the Ghost
Hey, you! You with the big chin! Oei!"
He's calling me.
I don't answer him. Not yet.
I dip the tip of the brush in the ink bowl.
I let it sink. I lift it, turn it, and press it down into the ink again.
Then I lift and tap.
I press it against the edge of the bowl, twisting so ink beads at the tip of the bristles and then drops back into the small, still, dark pool. Again I press the hairs of the brush into the ink, flattening the bulb against the bottom of the bowl, rolling it.
"Don't press so hard!" the Old Man barks.
I bare my teeth. "Shut up, Old Man." He laughs. Thinks he's distracted me.
But my hand is zealous. To spite him I press for one full minute. I lift the brush from the bowl. It is not dripping, not full, but fully moist. I hold it over the paper, balanced in my fingers. I raise and lower it, ever so slightly, giving it breath, and then touch the point to paper. I begin the fine, fine lines of the ...
Govier weaves the saga of Oei's life into Japanese customs - such as the parade of courtesans, or the shaved eyebrows that signify a married woman - in a fashion that develops an intimacy between the reader, Oei, and this complex culture. It's a potent combination that results in a mystically engaging story, and though Oei may not think her life is full of incident, her legacy certainly is.
(Reviewed by Mark James).
Full Review (1032 words).
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