The Ghost Brush

The Printmaker's Daughter

  • Harper Perennial, 2011

As a child, Oei joined her father, Hokusai, the printmaker, in his studio. In a time when a woman was a possession of her men folk, Oei laboured to bring her father’s visions to life. Her home of Edo (Tokyo) was the largest city in the world, teeming with peasants, warriors, townsmen, merchants, and nobles.  Always broke, living beyond convention, dodging the censors and devoted to the old man, Oei left hundreds of beautiful pictures. But she - and her work – are lost to history.

Or are they?

Now, 150 years after the death of Edo’s great eccentrics, scholars examine the thousands of Hokusai paintings in museums from New York to London, Amsterdam to Tokyo.  Some are forgeries; many are the work of students. But the authorship of the greatest works, painted in the last ten years of Hokusai’s life, is a mystery.

This novel combines international research, scholarly detective work, and imagination. It brings a great, lost woman artist to life—and exposes the process by which she was subtracted from history.

View a video of Katherine talking about her novel The Ghost Brush (aka the Printmaker's Daughter), with shots of artworks and her travels.


"From the hothouse ferment of art studios, bordellos, and Kabuki theater to the tonic countryside, Govier’s spectacularly detailed, eventful, and emotionally stormy novel is populated by vivid characters and charged with searing insights into Japanese history…"— Starred review, Booklist

"If The Ghost Brush doesn’t make you want to travel to Japan and see multiple views of Mount Fuji and the waves at Kanagawa, you may already be dead, at least in a literary sense."— The National Post

"Reading The Ghost Brush is like entering a series of paintings that illuminate the floating world. The detail is exquisite. The story had to be told."— Frances Itani, author of Deafening

Buy the book

Please check your local independent bookstore for this title.