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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 ...
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 Printmaker’s Daughter shines fresh light on art, loyalty, and the tender and indelible bond between a father and daughter.
Posted May 29, 2012
Posted December 30, 2011
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.
Posted December 4, 2011
"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.
Posted November 6, 2011
No text was provided for this review.