Synopses & Reviews
Bestselling author Whitney Otto's Eight Girls Taking Pictures
i s a profoundly moving portrayal of the lives of women, imagining the thoughts and circumstances that produced eight famous female photographers of the twentieth century.
This captivating novel opens in 1917 as Cymbeline Kelley surveys the charred remains of her photography studio, destroyed in a fire started by a woman hired to help take care of the house while Cymbeline pursued her photography career. This tension — between wanting and needing to be two places at once; between domestic duty and ambition; between public and private life; between whats seen and whats hidden from view — echoes in the stories of the other seven women in the book. Among them: Amadora Allesbury, who creates a world of color and whimsy in an attempt to recapture the joy lost to WWI; Clara Argento, who finds her voice working alongside socialist revolutionaries in Mexico; Lenny Van Pelt, a gorgeous model who feels more comfortable photographing the deserted towns of the French countryside after WWII than she does at a couture fashion shoot; and Miri Marx, who has traveled the world taking pictures, but also loves her quiet life as a wife and mother in her New York apartment.
Crisscrossing the world and a century, Eight Girls Taking Pictures is an affecting meditation on the conflicts women face and the choices they make. These memorable characters seek extraordinary lives through their work, yet they also find meaning and reward in the ordinary tasks of motherhood, marriage, and domesticity. Most of all, this novel is a vivid portrait of women in love — in love with men, other women, children, their careers, beauty, and freedom.
As she did in her bestselling novel How to Make an American Quilt, Whitney Otto offers a finely woven, textured inquiry into the intersecting lives of women. Eight Girls Taking Pictures is her most ambitious book: a bold, immersive, and unforgettable narrative that shows how the art, loves, and lives of the past influence our present.
"Of the girls who take the pictures Cymbeline, Amadora, Clara, Lenny, Charlotte, Miri, Jessie, and Jenny the first six are based on real photographers. Some, like Imogen Cunningham and Lee Miller, are quite well known, and others, like Grete Stern, less so, but even the more fictional Jenny Lux bears a resemblance to Sally Mann, if not in her life, in her work. These women lead interesting, bohemian lives: they take lovers, travel, get involved in wars and revolutions, but what they really have in common is the struggle to find their voices, to deal with and confound expectations of women (which change over the century covered here, but not enough), and to balance work with love and motherhood. So far so good, but the problem is that Otto (How to Make an American Quilt), who calls the book 'my mash note, my valentine to these women photographers,' doesn't succeed in integrating her fine research into a fictional work that stands on its own: though the women's lives start to connect at the end, throughout most of the book it's not clear that linking their stories makes a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Agent: Joy Harris." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"What makes Eight Girls Taking Pictures so remarkable is its simultaneous sharp focus and wide-angle lens. Through the lives of eight women photographers, Whitney Otto allows readers to see their own immediate worlds and the alternative, otherwise inaccessible worlds of women artists. We share the inscape of these characters' psychologies and the countries and times that frame and shape their work; their struggles to practice their art are both extraordinary and hauntingly familiar. Eight Girls Taking Pictures takes us through the twentieth century in a way that immeasurably enriches our lives and our futures." Sena Jeter Naslund, author of Ahab's Wife, Four Spirits, and Adam & Eve
"Otto skillfully develops each character and draws the reader in with rich detail that must be the result of careful and extensive research. Highly recommended; those with an interest in photography, women's history, or feminist literature should particularly enjoy." Library Journal
"Otto's photographers battle society's denunciations and personal demons as they seek love, acceptance, success, and harmony. A visionary and distinctive look at the sacrifices and triumphs of daring women artists." Booklist
From the bestselling author of How to Make an American Quilt
comes a powerful and sweeping novel inspired by the lives of famous female photographers.
A deeply affecting meditation on the lives of women artists, Whitney Otto's vivid novel explores the ambitions, passions, conflicts and desires of eight female photographers throughout the twentieth century. This spectacular cast of spirited, larger-than-life women offers wide-ranging insight about the times in which they lived. From San Francisco to New York, London, Berlin, Buenos Aires, and Rome, Otto spins a magical, romantic tale that creates a compelling portrait of the history of feminism and of photography.
While their circumstances may differ, the tensions these women experience — from wanting a private life or a public life; passion or security; art or domesticity; children or creative freedom — are universal. Otto seamlessly weaves together eight breathtaking vignettes to form a moving and emotionally satisfying novel.
About the Author
Whitney Otto is the author of the New York Times bestseller, How to Make an American Quilt (which was made into a feature film), Now You See Her, The Passion Dream Book, and A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and son.