Eight Girls Taking Pictures by Whitney Otto
A Novel

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Synopsis

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 what’s seen and what’s 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.
 

About Whitney Otto

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Whitney Otto is the author of five novels, including the New York Times bestseller, How to Make an American Quilt. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her family.
 
Published November 6, 2012 by Scribner. 384 pages
Genres: Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction, History. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Eight Girls Taking Pictures

Kirkus Reviews

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Otto (A Collection of Beauties at the Height of Their Popularity, 2002, etc.) combines a paean to the art form with an argument for women’s rights in these interlocking stories of eight fictional woman photographers, clearly inspired by actual photographers, over the course of the 20th century.

Oct 01 2012 | Read Full Review of Eight Girls Taking Pictures: ...

Publishers Weekly

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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...

Sep 03 2012 | Read Full Review of Eight Girls Taking Pictures: ...

USA Today

Cymbeline comes to realize that what's unseen in a photograph, and life, is often more important than what is visible.Using flashbacks and memories, Otto tells the stories of Cymbeline and seven other photographers, some loosely based on real artists (among them Imogen Cunningham and Madame Yevon...

Nov 07 2012 | Read Full Review of Eight Girls Taking Pictures: ...

Dallas News

“The origin of the novel,” Otto says by email, “was wanting to spend time with those women who happen to be photographers, as opposed to wanting to write about photography and then deciding which ones to write about.” In an author’s note, she calls the novel her love letter, mash note and valenti...

Dec 21 2012 | Read Full Review of Eight Girls Taking Pictures: ...

Full Stop

It’s the sort of book you buy for your mom because she loved Otto’s 1992 bestseller, How to Make an American Quilt (at least the film version—she can’t actually remember if she even read the book-book) and because Monet is her favorite painter and Beethoven is her favorite composer, and you want...

Nov 09 2012 | Read Full Review of Eight Girls Taking Pictures: ...

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