BLOOD WATER PAINT by Joy McCullough is a beautiful and impactful book written in verse featuring the famous Renaissance painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. This post DOES NOT CONTAIN SPOILERS.
If you would like to read the spoiler post click here. To begin, here is the summary and the shortened review:
Summary: 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.
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Why I was interested: As I have mentioned before, historical fiction is one of my favorite genres in YA and beyond. I remember learning about Artemisia Gentileschi in my high school art classes and thinking how powerful her paintings were. I had also never really read many books in verse, so I was intrigued by the book’s potential.
Side note: Personally, I picked this book up at Avid Bookshop in Athens, GA the week of the Christine Blasey Ford and Brett Kavanaugh hearings. I was so frustrated by the hearings that I wanted to dive into a book that addressed topics including rape and women supporting women. So, yes, it was a political decision too.
Judge a book by it’s cover: While the cover is stunning with cracking paint, it is also textured! It feels like canvas and that made me thrilled that it contained this subtle detail.
What to expect: While most of the book is written in verse, there are some parts written in prose. I am not a huge poetry person, but once you get into the rhythm of the story, it flows rather well. Fun fact: this book was originally a play which makes sense in regards to it being dialogue heavy. For trigger warnings: this book does address rape, women supporting (and even failing) women, archaic political systems (as it takes place in Renaissance Italy), and the characters and situations may make you very frustrated and/or uncomfortable. However, the book and its topics are presented in a really respectful manner and the rape scene is very minimal in detail.
Why you should pick this book up: BLOOD WATER PAINT is a super impactful read as well as being a quick read. I truly believe everyone should read it especially in the #MeToo movement age. Also, if you are interested in women’s rights, Renaissance Italy, Artemisia Gentileschi and her artwork, you will appreciate this story in verse.
Want more?: If you have read BLOOD WATER PAINT, you can read the post containing spoilers here.