The Printmaker's Daughter

The Printmaker's Daughter

4.2 4
by Katherine Govier
     
 

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A lost voice of old Japan reclaims her rightful place inhistory in this breathtaking work of imagination and scholarship from award-winning and internationally acclaimedauthor Katherine Govier. In the evocative taleof 19th century Tokyo, The Printmaker’sDaughter  delivers an enthrallingtale of one of the world’s great unknown artists:

Overview

A lost voice of old Japan reclaims her rightful place inhistory in this breathtaking work of imagination and scholarship from award-winning and internationally acclaimedauthor Katherine Govier. In the evocative taleof 19th century Tokyo, The Printmaker’sDaughter  delivers an enthrallingtale of one of the world’s great unknown artists: Oei,the mysterious daughter of master printmaker Hokusai, painter of the Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji. In a novel that willresonate with readers of Tracy Chevalier’s Girlwith a Pearl Earring, Lisa See’s SnowFlower and the Secret Fan, and David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet,the sights and sensations of an exotic, bygone era form the richly captivatingbackdrop for an intimate, finely wrought story of daughterhood and duty, artand authorship, the immortality of creation and the anonymity of history.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Govier’s (Creation) lavishly researched and brilliant historical novel, published in Canada last year as The Ghost Brush, is set during Japan’s repressive 19th-century Edo period, when artists and writers were suppressed and Japan hid itself from the outside world. Against that background the author fictionalizes the life of Oei, a little-known Japanese ukiyo-e (an artist of the everyday) whose gender keeps her from the recognition heaped upon her father, Hokusai. When Oei is young, her penniless father seeks artistic inspiration in the seedy Yoshiwara district, as well as with Shino, a young girl sold into prostitution by a vengeful husband. Oei accompanies her father on visits and we see through her eyes how powerless women live. Govier’s light linguistic touch draws readers into an increasingly harrowing tale of artistic crackdowns during which the defiant Hokusai takes to the road to escape the authorities and his creditors, often with his daughter in tow. These trips, later taken by Oei on her own, are fascinating ambulations inconceivable in modern society. Hokusai passes his questioning nature onto his daughter, who is always more mature and responsible than her quixotic father; she manages their meager funds, runs his studio, paints under his direction (and name), and nurses him through illness. Though Hokusai cherishes Oei above his other children (he fathered her at 40), he puts himself first, which is illustrated to heart-breaking effect when he railroads her into giving him one of her commissions. Govier examines women’s subservience to men through the dual narratives of Shino’s sale into prostitution and Oei’s deference to her father, even as two talented men, her lovers, nurture her talent and push her to seek recognition. The episodic nature of the novel, most apparent during a Dutch doctor’s visit to Japan, is its only flaw, and a minor one (at first glance, the doctor seems extraneous, but eventually he becomes more than a device to teach Oei about the outside world). Govier astonishes throughout in her ability to write epic themes intimately, particularly in the lyrical, absorbing, and intense final hundred pages. She illustrates how the clash between change and the forces of the status quo literally hold Oei hostage, with emotionally wrenching results. (Nov.)
Booklist
"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."
New York Journal of Books
“If you read one novel this year by a writer you may be unfamiliar with, read THE PRINTMAKER’S DAUGHTER by Katherine Govier; even if you are familiar with Ms. Govier’s novels, this one is unmatched literary fiction.”
Marie Claire
“Katherine Govier reimagines the overlooked artist in this historically rich tale, based on a true story and crafted with vivid imagery.”
Globe & 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."
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.”
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.”
Library Journal
After 2003's Creation, named a New York Times Notable Book, Canadian author Govier attempts to win over American audiences once again with this retitled work (published as Ghost Brush in Canada). The youngest daughter of then-struggling real-life Japanese artist Hokusai, Oei narrates the story of her life with her father, whom she affectionately calls "old man," and her role as his apprentice and eventual caretaker. Set in the lush Edo period between 1800 and 1867, the novel nonchalantly describes Oei's early encounters with courtesans; she even develops a close relationship with her father's beloved Shino, only ten years her senior. In Oei, Govier offers readers a portrait of an independent-minded woman with no qualms about having affairs, smoking a pipe, and divorcing a husband after a decade of marriage because he expected her to cook. VERDICT Although not as gifted as Anchee Min in characterizing her female protagonist, Govier nonetheless gives readers an engrossing narrative worth their time. The accompanying afterword describing the author's research is also noteworthy, as it melds fact with Govier's fiction to let readers decide for themselves what Oei's role might have been in her famous father's work.—Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA
Kirkus Reviews
The gifted daughter of a 19th-century Japanese artist chafes at her society's restrictions on women. Based on exhaustive research into the life of famed painter and printmaker Hokusai, this novel postulates that much of his work, particularly in his dotage, was actually that of his daughter and chief protégée, Oei. Born in 1800 in Edo (now Tokyo), Oei is her father's favorite, and his only child displaying a talent for drawing equal to his own. Oei follows her father to the Yoshiwara, the licensed red-light district of Edo, where he sketches the courtesans. Among these is Shino, a noblewoman sold into prostitution as punishment for some unknown transgression. Shino becomes Hokusai's mistress and teaches the young Oei manners and martial arts. After Shino marries, Hokusai and Oei travel throughout Japan and Hokusai becomes obsessed with the sea, which will be the subject of his best-known masterpiece, Great Wave Off Kanagawa. Never considered pretty (her prominent jaw earns her the nickname Ago-Ago, or chin-chin), Oei attracts lovers with her wit and talent and charms a Dutch art connoisseur. A brief marriage ends in divorce because Oei eschews housework and smokes and drinks sake like a man. For Hokusai, family exists only to serve his art. After his other children (and wives) either flee or die, Oei becomes her father's sole partner and caregiver. Their fortunes wax and wane with the vagaries of artistic fashion, not to mention the caprices of the ruling Shogun and his censors. Among their bestselling products are Beauties, scrolls depicting life among the courtesans, and shunga--pornography. As Hokusai ages (his life-span extends to an unheard-of, for that period, 90), he suffers from palsy, and Oei acts as his ghost-painter. While symbiotically joined to her father, Oei wonders if, after helping to prolong her father's life, she will ever have her own. Although her story is hamstrung by an episodic and gangly narrative structure, Oei's quandary will resonate with female artists today.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062000361
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
11/22/2011
Edition description:
Original
Pages:
512
Sales rank:
822,579
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.80(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Katherine Govier’s most recent novel, The Ghost Brush, was published in the United States as The Printmaker’s Daughter, and in translation in Romania, Spain, Quebec and Japan. Her novel Creation was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2003. She has won the Marian Engel Award and the Toronto Book Award, and has twice been nominated for the Trillium Book Award. The author of twelve books, Katherine divides her time between Toronto, Ontario, and Canmore, Alberta.

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Printmaker's Daughter 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed the book very much. Well-researched, very informative. Learned much about Hokusai and will view his work in a new light.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Set in 19th century Japan, the Edo period, The Printmaker's Daughter is a fascinating rendering of life¿s hardships for Japanese women and artists in that era. Oei is the favourite daughter of her famous master painter artist father, Hokusai. Despite Hokusai¿s fame, his family was truly poor. Born to him late in life, she immediately enchanted him because of her aptitude for art and her vivid personality, unusual for Japanese women. When he leaves his family to pursue his art, he takes his favourite child with him. Despite the restrictions imposed on her, she served as a dutiful business partner to her father, keeping his accounts, helping his students, and even secretly completing some of his art projects. He struggled against strict government control and strong sentiments against artists. He took his daughter along with him in his travels, leaving her in the care of courtesans in the pleasure district so he could work. Oei struggles to find a balance between honing her talent as an artist and learning the womanly household arts expected of a young woman in such a strict culture. She also grapples with her allegiance to a father she equally resents is sometimes repulsed by ¿ a man truly selfish in his pursuits with poor appreciation for the Oei¿s own sacrifices. In this dual biographical historical novel about Oei and Hokusai¿s lives, readers will experience rich details of Japanese life. Told in first person narrative through Oei¿s point of view, this is a beautifully written and well-researched story. As with most biographical historical novels, I did find the pace slow at various points in the story. This is normal and to be expected; after all, true life is not always filled with constant turmoil and conflict. Therefore, readers should understand this and enjoy the story for what it is - an accurate portrayal of two struggling artists who left an indelible mark upon history, art, and culture in Japan. The novel describes a world far removed from that which we know in the West. Oei¿s story is one of dauntless courage to overcome cultural restrictions for women of the time. Through beautiful prose, the writer evokes emotion and I could not help becoming fascinated with this exotic story, especially when given glimpses into the brothel life and prostitution. The Printmaker's Daughter was published in Canada as The Ghost Brush.
Humbee More than 1 year ago
"The Printmaker's Daughter" is a book of considerable consternation. While the overall story of artists Hokusai and his daughter, Oei, is complex and interesting,it falls short in this translation to novel. In this book, what seems to have happened in Ms Govier's elaboration in novel form is that she took the bones of the historical knowledge of Hukosai and Oei, and tried to reconstruct a story around those details. Often that's a good place to start; however, what resulted was a "term paperish" book that left out the essence of the people and the art you'd hope to find in a novel. There are no real feelings engendered, no emotion truly felt and shown by way of the characterizations. None of the characters moved me at all. I felt a strict distance from them throughout this novel, despite the fact that there were several opportunities that could have been employed to enlist sympathy, empathy, and all sorts of identification in pain and love. There is a definite void of emotion in these very flat characters. It was as if I was getting a view of complete strangers and it stayed that way until the end with no insight into their real thoughts and feelings. Even the lovely and abused courtesan that Hokusai loved was left a blank slate of her true thoughts and agonies. And, what's more, I missed finer details of the landscape, temple convent and buildings. Now, how can this be true in contrast? I liked the story as it played out, and I believe that those who love novels of this oriental flavor will enjoy it for that reason. I enjoyed the fantasy of how Oei may have looked and acted with the courtesans and her father, and how she may have become the great artist many think she actually was. But I had to skim (which is antithetical to my reading spirit!) through long parts to get to that liking. I had to give up a lot of what I wanted and expected. In terms of the descriptions of making art; painting on silk and printmaking in particular, we are completely left in the dark. I wanted to know the process, the artist's angst, the finding and connection with colors, the choices of engravers and printers and something about them, the type of paper used, etc. I wanted to know their reactions when the engraving didn't work out! There was so little about the artists' spirits and the compulsion to make art; what first inspired him and her. So much substance could have been included, but wasn't. I was disappointed with a novel that had such promise in facts available, but couldn't put the heart around the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago