Monday, December 12, 2011

The Printmaker's Daughter by Katherine Govier

About book:

Recounting the story of her life, Oei plunges us into the colorful world of nineteenth-century Edo, 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 created her and who, ultimately will rob her of her place in history.

Vivid, daring, and unforgettable, The Paintmaker's Daughter shines fresh light on art, loyalty, and the tender and indelible bond between father and daughter.

My thoughts:

I liked this book. It was interesting and rather rich in detail; which made it easy to imagine nineteenth century Japan.  Plus, the fact that Oei is based on an actual historical figure added an element of authenticity to the story.  Reading about the art work and the relationship that Oei had with her father was fascinating.  She devoted her life to him and in return he expected more and more from her.  Her art work surpassed her father's in talent and scope, yet Oei would not take any credit for it.  Instead, she would allow her father to pass her work off as his, thereby cementing his place in the art world.  His desire for the limelight far outweighed any paternal inklings he may have felt for his daughter, which made Oei resentful.  She struggled to deal with the fact that her relationship with her father was completely one-sided; her talent hidden beneath his name. 

Suffice it to say the characters definitely captured my attention.  Their struggles and passions were captivating to read about.  Oei was a young woman who eschewed Japan's societal construct of what a woman should be - obedient wife.  Instead, she chose to focus on her art and embrace some of the wayward ways that were impressed on her as a child.  Hokusai, Oei's father, took her around with him as he traveled and worked on his painting; and as a result, they were usually surrounded by a circle of peers that consisted of fellow artists, prostitutes, writers and actors ( the very people who bucked society's rules ).  Definitely an interesting group of people to have influence your daughter, wouldn't you say? 

As for the art work -  well, after reading so much about it and picturing it in my mind, how could I not seek it out?   Luckily for me, the author has included examples of both Oei and Hokusai's pieces on her website.  Definitely something I enjoyed checking out. 

Aside from enjoying the story and characters, I found the writing to be solid and engaging.  The pace was perfect for a sweeping epic, which is just how I would characterize this historical fiction text.  I would recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction, Japanese culture and history and Japanese art.
Thank you to TLC Book Tours and the publisher for providing me with a copy of the book!


Tom Cunliffe said...

That really does sounds rather interesting. It must be difficult to write about a culture so different from Canadian 21st century. I looked at the website but couldn't get through to the illustrations.

Nivedita Barve said...

This is such a fascinating story. I did not know that Hokusai had a daughter who was also an artist!

Nadia said...

Tom, it was a rather interesting book to read. And funnily enough, a friend sent me a card and it had a Hokusai picture on it :) Anyhow, that's annoying you couldn't get through to the website.

Nivedita Barve, It is fascinating. Definitely worth a read!

Anonymous said...

I'm intrigued by the art as well - I can definitely see myself digging into more of the history behind this story!

Thanks for being a part of the tour.

Nadia said...

heathertlc, it is that kind of book isn't it? Definitely makes me want to research more about these artists. Loved it! Thanks for having me on the tour :)

bermudaonion said...

I like to read about Japan and the fact that this is based on a real person makes it intriguing.