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Eight Girls Taking Pictures: A Novel Audiobook, by Whitney Otto Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Whitney Otto Narrator: Joy Osmanski Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: November 2012 ISBN: 9781442358522
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (520 ratings) (rate this audio book)
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Bestselling author Whitney Otto’s Eight Girls Taking Pictures is 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “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, New York Times bestselling author of Ahab’s Wife

  • “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.”


  • “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

  • Selected for the November 2012 Indie Next List

Listener Reviews

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  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gina | 2/14/2014

    " The themes of domesticity and creativity and the conflict that often arises when the two worlds collide are at the heart of the linked short stories in this collection. Otto's observations ring true in both the nineteenth and twentieth century situations she creates. The afterword reveals that the fictional female photographers in these stories at loosely based on real women Otto researched. The writing is sophisticated and insightful. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Fred | 2/13/2014

    " I found the photographic aspects interesting since that is a major hobby but the writing drags and the women are fairly interchangeable despite the different historical periods they occupy. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Heather | 2/4/2014

    " I liked this a lot better than "How to Make and an American Quilt". There were some great stories here of women living untraditional lives. Sometimes it was a bit disheartening and sad, but there was always hope for the future. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Melissa | 1/15/2014

    " I should have loved this book: I studied photography and art history. I just couldn't get into it. It felt less like a novel and more like a college student's first attempt at a collection of historical short stories. Facts about whatever areas/periods were being covered were thrown in, often interrupting the flow of prose and creating a sense the author was trying to show off her breadth of research. Good historical fiction writers weave the facts in so they color the story, not footnote it. There was little to bring the eight women together other than the fact they were women photographers trying to make it in a man's profession. The final story tried to tie everything together a little too late, and by then I was just ready to be done. Skip this attempt and just go straight to the biographies of the real women she was drawing from. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sharon | 1/7/2014

    " Snow day inspiration or not, I was thankful to have some time to finish this work. Any novel featuring Hannah Hoech and her innovative and trailblazing work during the Dada movement has me at "collage." I appreciated many of the familiar geographical and historical references to my own past and the way photos capture what may be left unsaid, yet stated in many words. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jen | 1/6/2014

    " I enjoyed this, but felt the theme got repetitive after awhile. I liked the first stories a lot. It does make me want to dust off my old camera, though! "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Nicole | 1/6/2014

    " I'm a photographer and I was really looking forward to this book. It was disappointing! It was excruciatingly boring! I couldn't finish it. It had no point, no message and no entertainment value. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Linda | 1/2/2014

    " Wanted to like this one, but the writing didn't hold it for me. Abandoned. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jan | 12/20/2013

    " "Snapshots" into the lives of women photographers. I had a hard time connecting with any of the characters, and while we'll-written, for me it's only okay. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ashley | 11/12/2013

    " I absolutely loved this novel. Each glimpse into the characters life was thrilling and I was instantly connected and invested in their lives. Beautiful prose. I would highly recommend this novel. Great coming of age for young women. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deb | 10/29/2013

    " Eight stories about "eight girls taking pictures" with some overlap. All are strong, artistic, independent women who lived between 1917 and the 1970s. Interesting and loosely based on the lives of real photographers whom I have yet to google... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Teresa | 9/13/2013

    " Eh...not what I expected. Characters and topics were too weird for me. Had to struggle to finish. Did not identify with anyone. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Karen | 8/15/2013

    " Whitney can turn a phrase in such a way to drive it into your heart. Between her prose, interweaving of history, and telling women's stories in such a way that you say, "Oh yea, I've felt that way before" or "That's how I feel, but I didn't know how to voice it," she's a master. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tamera | 7/28/2013

    " highly recommended collection of short stories particularly for women artists balancing the demands of life & art. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Laurie | 7/12/2013

    " The eight girls might just has well been one girl. Their stories were the same. By the time I got to the sixth girl I decided to give up. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jinn | 6/8/2013

    " While the concept is stronger than the uneven writing, I needed to read this for its invitation to consider how much of my emotional energy I give to my art v. my lover...and the book disturbed me (in the right ways) for that reason. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Alex | 5/17/2013

    " Focus on the personal stories of several women photographers. Illuminates their struggles to choose between art and family. Today's women photographers will especially find these stories fascinating. Based on the lives of real photographers who lived in the early to mid twentieth century. "

About the Author

Whitney Otto is the author of the New York Times bestseller How to Make an AmericanQuilt, 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.

About the Narrator

Joy Osmanski, theater, television, and film actress, is an award-winning audiobook narrator who has won three AudioFile Earphones Awards. She graduated from Principia College with a degree in creative writing and received her MFA from UC San Diego.