To celebrate the publication of The Ghost Brush in ebook format, HarperCollins has included two editions in one book: the original story, set in nineteenth-century Japan, and a special edition that comprises the same novel but wraps it in a tale of the present day, illuminating how Oei’s historical significance finally came to light.
The Ghost Brush begins with the sights and smells of nineteenth-century Edo, Japan. Oei is the daughter of the great Japanese printmaker Hokusai. In their fragile, lantern-lit world, courtesans rub shoulders with poets, and samurai protest the repressive political regime. Dodging the Shogun’s spies, Oei and Hokusai make the exquisite pictures that define their time.
Oei does not cook or sew, nor is she beautiful, but she has her secret joys. Wielding her brush, she defies all expectations of womanhood -- all but one. She is ever dutiful to the exasperating genius who fathered her. When he dies at age ninety, just as Oei’s future fame seems assured, she must find her way as “one brush.” But she disappears without a trace.
The Ghost Brush Special Edition begins in modern-day Washington, DC. In an art gallery, Rebecca, a writer, is accosted by a ghost: Oei has returned to take up her rightful place in history. But she needs Rebecca’s help.
In additional chapters interleafed in the novel, Rebecca sets out to unearth Oei’s story. Why is she not mentioned in records? Why are there no signed works from her, although she spent her entire life in Hokusai’s studio? The experts offer easy answers, but Rebecca can’t accept them. With the ghost as her guide, she travels the world to discover why and how a great woman artist was erased from the historical record.
Combining scholarship and imagination, The Ghost Brush deconstructs the idea that great men working alone make masterpieces. At the same time, it illuminates the most tender and ambiguous love of all -- that between father and daughter.