Nicola here. Today I’m talking about women and reading. At the start of this year I bought what was possibly the most pointless item of 2020, although at the time I didn't realise it. It was a 2020 desk diary in which I planned to write all the dates of the talks I was going to be giving this year, details of bookshop visits, conferences and literary festivals. This week I looked at its blank pages and although I was sorry I hadn't had the chance to use it, I still appreciated the illustrations because it was The Reading Woman Diary.
I love the idea of "the reading woman" and I love pictures of women reading. It's a celebration of something we all enjoy doing. In the introduction to the diary there are a few paragraphs about paintings of reading women and how they have always been a popular subject for artists through the ages. The reading women “turn to books for entertainment, insight and revelation.” They are educated, literate and they have the leisure to read. “Within these often-intimate portrayals lies the opportunity for enlightenment and the seductive retreat from the concerns of every day,” the diary says.