Friday, August 03, 2018

Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough

A vivid account, written in verse, of the life of the 17th century Italian artist Artemisia Gentileschi.  McCullough focuses on the events surrounding her rape by a fellow artist, interweaving the Biblical stories of Susanna and Judith.  The result is a grim story of female suffering in the "present" of Renaissance Rome contrasted with the tales of relative triumph from the past.  McCullough portrays Artemisia as drawing strength from these stories (and certainly they are the inspiration for her art), but the ending is bittersweet (as indeed her life was in actuality).  The story is described as "feminist" but really only in the sense that the injustices depicted will fire up the reader in defense of the cause.

The story is beautifully written and it is an excellent novel, but it is mis-classified as YA.  Certainly, young people will find the story interesting, but there is little here about youth or growing up.  Instead, this is more of a protest piece against sexual double standards and the sexual dangers of being female.

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