Oei is the daughter of a famous Japanese painter Hokusai, living in 19th century Edo(Toyko), Japan. This is the era of emperors and shoguns. The western world is feared and kept as far as possible from the Japanese.
Hokusai has a large family but chooses his daughter as his apprentice and helper. He loves her and abuses her. Oei is left to deal with their finances, often moving from place to place to dodge creditors. Living conditions are not the best especially for a young lady. Oei lives next to the brothels and be-friends prostitutes. On occasion they even have to leave town due to what Hokusai has said or painted.
Oei becomes an artist in her own right but is under her father's studio and thus her art has his stamp on it.
Oei's relationships are flawed. She is continually choosing men whom she can not have or do not want her. Even her relationship with her father is a love-hate one which the reader sympathizes with. Hokusai is a selfish arrogant unthinking man who really does not think of his daughter's well-being at all.
I loved this book. The prose is very lyrical and the descriptions of pictures make them appear right before you.. I found that while reading this book it seemed like a non-fiction account rather than a historical fiction. The story was so interwoven with the facts it all seemed so real. Oei and Hokusai are truly unforgettable characters.
First Line: "Hey, you!"