This is beautiful and powerful and absolutely necessary.
It’s historical fiction novel written in alternating verse and prose, exploring the life of seventeenth century painter Artemisia Gentileschi. And because it featured the artist so prominently (after all, she is our lead), verse felt very fitting a style, because it is up-close and personal. And besides, it does have a poetic side to it: stylized writer in an artistic novel? I like that.
BLOOD WATER PAINT includes heavy topics, most prominently rape and rape culture, and this, though heavy, was handled deftly. Despite this, the book features Artemisia’s strength, channeled through stories of Biblical figures and subjects of Artemisia’s paintings such as Judith and Susanna (whose chapters are written in prose and narrated by her mother), and thus serves to be empowering in and of itself. Artemisia herself, as a female painter, defied society’s expectations while doing something she loves and being brilliant and well-known for it, despite the numerous challenges thrown her way.
The pacing was well-suited to the overall storyline, and the alternating between chapters of verse and prose is seamless and very easy to follow along with. It isn’t that odd of an experience, actually, as I first expected it to be, and I found myself enjoying the style and wishing there’s more of this type of storytelling around.
BLOOD WATER PAINT actually reminded me a lot of LM Elliot’s DA VINCI’S TIGER, which follows Leonardo
DiCaprio da Vinci’s muse Genevra de Binci. Frankly, I did not like DVT all that much. In fact, BLOOD WATER PAINT gave me everything I was missing in DA VINCI’S TIGER and made it better. I like historical fiction. I like artists (*cough*IMyselfAmAPainter*cough*). And BLOOD WATER PAINT gave me everything I was looking for, and then some.
So all in all? Perfect read. I’d say, if historical fiction and empowering novels are your thing, then absolutely go for this one. And even if you don’t like verse, I’d give this a shot, too.
Thank you, Penguin Teen, for the ARC!
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.
Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Blood Water Paint is her debut novel.