Queen of the Owls

Queen of the Owls is a scholarly, yet fictionalized, look at Georgia O’Keeffe’s art and how it changes the course of an academic’s life when she risks following in Georgia’s footsteps.



How much is an doctoral student willing to risk to be truly seen and understood – by her husband, the academic world, a handsome photographer, and even herself?



I have such mixed emotions about this book – it’s been the hardest one for me to reflect on and review from all the others I’ve read this year. Having a professional history of photography and a passion for creativity, I assumed this story would be the perfect fit for me. Unfortunately, it fell short.

Many aspects did make this book shine: its artistic cover, the originality in pursuing such a complex research project and melding it with fiction, and the thoughtful prose. Those are all beautifully done. Every chapter exudes academia and scholarship, and a deep well of knowledge about Georgia O’Keeffe.

However, I just can’t overlook the dreary feeling the book left me with. The few hopeful moments are still tinged with remorse and longing, in such a melancholy and frustrating way. There were days when I couldn’t even force myself to pick it up. Instead, I battled with myself about the things that didn’t work for me, and was reluctant to continue. (I am relieved I finished, since the last 50 pages finally comes to an adequate resolution.)

There was a lack of a spark between Elizabeth and either of the men in her life. Her deteriorating relationship with her husband was laid out well, and felt real. But her attraction to a man who seemed to barely regard her, and whose singular focus seemed glaringly obvious to me, was irritating. Elizabeth made so many close-minded decisions that made the outcomes not only really predictable, but her reactions to them infuriating.

Another weakness pertained to the parts about Georgia O’Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz. The breadth of information about them could have used a tighter edit – it seemed repetitive in parts. And Elizabeth, who is doing her dissertation on O’Keeffe, knows that Steiglitz printed and displayed his personal (and nude) photographs of Georgia without her approval. Yet somehow, Elizabeth is surprised when the SAME THING happens to her. It was necessary to further the plot, but not believable knowing Elizabeth’s deep knowledge of the subject.

I sincerely want to congratulate Barbara on her debut novel, but I feel I wasn’t the right audience for it. There are other numerous glowing reviews, so I could be the outlier!

Thank you to Barbara Linn Probst and She Writes Press for the advance copy of Queen of the Owls in exchange for an honest review.

Book Details

Queen of the Owls
by Barbara Linn Probst
Paperback, 330 pages
Expected publication: April 7th 2020 by She Writes Press


Queen of the Owls is a scholarly look at Georgia O'Keeffe's art and how it changes the course of an academic's life when she risks following in Georgia's footsteps. I have such mixed emotions about this book... I assumed this story would be the perfect fit for me. Unfortunately, it fell short and was more frustrating than intriguing.

— Cassie
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