Expected Release Date: March 6th 2018
Rating: 5 stars
Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father’s paint.
She chose paint.
By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome’s most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.
He will not consume
my every thought.
I am a painter.
I will paint.
Joy McCullough’s bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia’s heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman’s timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.
I will show you
what a woman can do.
I first heard about this book from a friend of mine who got an early look of it on twitter. Then another blogger read it and was gushing about it. It moved to the top of my list of books I wanted to read, even before I found out it was about an artist I had read about on twitter who’s story was something I was desperate to read more about. Not only did I get that in this novel, but I got it done in beautiful prose writing that made the read quick and addictive.
The story is about Artemisia Gentileschi, a female artist who painted biblical scenes unlike they had been painted before in her time. She depicted them realistically, not shying away from showing blood on these women and what was possibly their true feelings. All of this was done when she herself was forced to live parts of these tales herself when a friend of her fathers sets to teaching her techniques of painting, done in hopes that her father would get a commission he had always wanted. What started out as girlish flirting and love turned to her own nightmare as her life becomes one of the tales that her mother would tell her. But instead of allowing these things to just happen, she fights back by taking him to court, something nearly never done in this time period.
To me, writing in prose just added a new level to this story, making the reader feel the emotions of Artemisia and the pain of her experience. Prose allows emotion to be better seen and felt, though it can be known to take away from the story. Sometimes I wished that it would have focused on certain events a bit more, had a little more depth to help our understanding, but these moments didn’t happen too often, though happened a lot more toward the end. I might end up doing my own research to better understand some of it, not being fully aware of the stories of Judith and Susanna other than what was said in this book.
The character growth in this book is done extremely well. Artemisia starts out as a girl who’s desperate for love and to get out from under her abusive father’s finger. But she turns into a fighter, something harder. Her father shows a lot of growth too when faced with what happens to his daughter at the hands of a man he had welcomed into his home.
The plot follows the events of what happened in Artemisia’s life, a real artist who’s paintings are still well known today. Due to this, I can’t exactly speak on it or critique it. But it did move at a good pace and didn’t feel overly slow.
I highly recommend this read, though I warn there are a lot of triggers in this story such as sexual assault, rape, abuse, blood, drinking, torture, and murder. It’s something to be aware of and makes up most of the story.