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A Reader of Fictions: Boycott Immorality - Rachel Portman

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Boycott Immorality - Rachel Portman

The Printmaker's Daughter

Author: Katherine Govier
Pages: 494
ARC Acquired from: HarperPerennial via NetGalley

Brief Summary:
The painter, Hokusai, became famous by selling his prints to the Dutch, during the years where the were allowed some little access to Japan. He lived for what was then a remarkable 8 years, with his faithful daughter Oei at his side for most of this time. This is Oei's story, which tells of being a non-feminine woman in a time when nothing else was deemed acceptable, of being a better painter than most men, and of taking care of her aging father.

Drawn in by the pretty cover and the lure of Japan, I had little idea what to expect of this novel. Although the title suggests that the tale would be all about the relationship of a father and daughter, I did not really suspect that would be almost the entirety of what it was about. There is little romance. Mostly, this is a story of art and the family ties between these two.

Actually, given the romance there was, I am glad there was not more. The men Oei took up with were rather creepy, especially the first, a man of her father's years (and he was not young when she was born) seduced her when she was only fifteen. Not strange for that time period, but that does not make it any more okay to me now.

The sections that really came alive were those about the making of the art. The loving discussion of the colors and the lines were touching, even for one, like me, who does not have an artistic bone in her body when it comes to painting, drawing, etc. Oei is a very strong woman, although not when confronted with her father, and she has more skill than most artists, even perhaps her lauded father.

In library school, we discussed at one point the legitimacy of someone from outside a culture trying to write a book about that culture. I don't really know how I feel about that, but I think Govier has likely done a fantastic job. Her mass of research is evident from her Afterword, which goes into detail on why she wrote the novel and the historical basis for her suppositions.

I never really got swept away by this. Despite Oei's strength, I had trouble relating to her and her decisions. There are certainly good things here, but this was not a perfect choice for me.

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