Summary and book reviews of The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier

The Printmaker's Daughter

A Novel

by Katherine Govier

The Printmaker's Daughter
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  • Paperback:
    Nov 2011, 512 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Mark James

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Book Summary

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.

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

PART 1

1.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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).

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Media Reviews

Kirkus Reviews

Although her story is hamstrung by an episodic and gangly narrative structure, Oei's quandary will resonate with female artists today.

Booklist

Starred Review. From the hothouse ferment of art studios, bordellos, and Kabuki theater to the tonic countryside, Govier's spectacularly detailed, eventful, and emotionally stormy novel is populated by vivid characters and charged with searing insights into Japanese history and the diabolically difficult lives of women and artists.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Lavishly researched and brilliant... Govier astonishes throughout in her ability to write epic themes intimately, particularly in the lyrical, absorbing, and intense final hundred pages.

Globe and Mail (Toronto)

Govier's expansive historical novel turns the spotlight on Oei, the 'ghost brush' attributed to some of her father's famous prints, and a character that drives a compulsively readable novel.

Reader Reviews

Vivian - The Book Diva

19th Century Japan through a Woman's Eyes
The Printmaker's Daughter is at times hauntingly beautiful in bringing the lives of Ei, Shino and Hokusai to life. There were also times the story seemed sluggish, as a result I found myself having to put the book down because my attention kept ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Yoshiwara: Edo's 19th Century Red Light District

Katherine Govier's The Printmaker's Daughter is historical fiction based on the real-life Japanese printmaker, Hokusai - best known for his ukiyo-e* series The Adonis Plant entitled Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji - and his daughter, Ei. The character Ei spends much of her early life in the Yoshiwara, or red light district, of Edo (modern day Tokyo) where her father helps pay his bills by producing erotica known as shunga. Ei, or Oei as he calls her, works as her father's apprentice.

In real life, just as in the book, the Yoshiwara was set off from the city, and was the only place in Edo where prostitution was legal. It was also the only place that chinen, or townspeople, could mix with samurai, members of the powerful military caste...

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