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The Ghost Brush Paperback – Jul 18 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial Canada (July 18 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155468644X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554686445
  • Product Dimensions: 13.5 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #643,141 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

Quill & Quire

A Katherine Govier book is as much history lesson as literary entertainment. In this, her ninth novel, Govier chronicles the life of a groundbreaking female artist in 19th-century Japan.

Set against the backdrop of the late Edo period, The Ghost Brush tells the story of Katsushika Oei. When she was born, Oei’s father, the famous printmaker Katsushika Hokusai, plucked her from her mother’s arms and claimed her as his own. The dysfunctional relationship between father and daughter forms the primary focus of the novel, though Govier includes a cast of entertaining characters, shifting locations, descriptions of local customs, and many historical facts, resulting in a complex and dense book. Somehow, she manages to impart an enormous amount of information without bogging down the story. It’s an impressive feat, one that she has pulled off before, though perhaps not so ambitiously.

As a narrator speaking from beyond the grave, Oei is a bit pallid. Her existence is rife with interesting twists and frustrating realities, but she is rarely impassioned. Even in describing her death (this is a story told by a ghost, after all, so no spoiler alert is needed), she is so matter-of-fact as to render the impact of the event underwhelming.

But her character is a highly useful authorial tool, as Govier is able to describe the inhumane treatment of Japanese women during the period, when forced prostitution and abuse were the norm. Oei is a rebel, a “man-woman” who drinks, smokes, takes lovers, and doesn’t cook or sew. She is, in essence, the female version of her father. Despite the fact that she is proclaimed by master artisans, including her dear “Old Man,” to be a better artist than Hokusai, her gender prevents her from gaining the recognition she justly deserves, sentencing her to an eternity as an unknown.

Govier’s ability to mould history to suit her fictional vision is on full display here. Fans of her previous work will no doubt devour every vivid detail.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.


"Katherine Govier takes us on a moving and fascinating quest as she explores the vanished world of 18th century Japan and the submerged stories of its women.Her telling of that of O-Ei, the daughter of the great painter Hokusai and perhaps his superior as an artist, is at once a work of painstaking historical research and a bold leap of the imagination. "
--Margaret MacMillan, author of Paris 1919 () --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Most helpful customer reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jinty on Dec 18 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I loved this book. I loved the story of Oei and her struggle to establish her mark in an environment that crushed and destroyed 'uppity' women. I felt like I had been transported for a short while to nineteenth century Japan by Govier's vivid descriptions of life at that time. The story has stayed fresh in my mind for almost two years now and is certainly one of those books you want to read and re-read. I highly recommend it.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 1 review
Meditation on Impermanence March 21 2012
By David H. Mattingly - Published on
Format: Paperback
Katherine Govier's The Ghost Brush is a poignant novel about the life of the Japanese painter Oei, daughter of the famous painter Hokusai. This historical novel, which was meticulously researched, will be of high interest to anyone interested in Japanese art and history. Set in the nineteenth century as Japan awkwardly transitions toward modernism, Oei's story unfolds with an enchanting cast of characters, including the surly but admirable Hokusai. At one level this novel is a meditation on the impermanence of life, the futility of trying to fight off old age and the eventual outcome, death. But Oei's voice transcends all of this, leaving the reader with many unforgettable moments. Oei's life is an epic struggle to find her place in the male dominated culture of traditional Japan and to resolve her conflicted relationship with her self-absorbed father. This book is pure poetry. Highly, highly, highly recommended.

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