Thursday, April 12, 2018

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCollough Review

Title: Blood Water Paint
Author: Joy McCollough
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: Standalone
Star Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.

I found Blood Water Paint through a recommendation list, and it’s been sitting in my library stack for a while, beckoning me with its minimalist, colorful cover.  When I realized that I couldn’t renew it anymore, I pushed it to the top of the stack. I still needed some time to recuperate from the beautiful bombshell that is Children of Blood and Bone, so I left the book for the morning, while I was getting ready to go to a botanical garden. Blood Water Paint tells the story of one of the world’s first well-known female artists, presented with the impossible choice of being a nun or apprenticing for her artist father, whose abusive behavior forms the first benchmarks of her life after losing her mother.  Nonetheless, she clings tight to her dream and the Biblical stories that her mother told her. Her life changes forever when her father hires an artist to tutor her; she falls in love with the dynamic, romantic Tino, and the relationship later morphs into something abusive, something that calls her very being and sense of self into question. Artemisia must decide whether to speak her truth, even if it means losing what she holds most dear.


This painful and relevant novel, told in spare, beautiful free verse form, told the story of the artist Artemisia Gentileschi, forced to work as an apprentice for her less-talented father. Honestly, I didn’t know about her before I read this book, but she was one of the most well-known painters—male or female—after the generation of Caravaggio. I felt a personal kinship with her, partially because we share a birthday. But honestly, after reading this book, I felt like I’d been hit with a lightning bolt. Artemisia was alone, trying to gain entrance into a world that, during this time period, belonged solely to men. My heart bled for this woman, desperate to follow her dreams in a world determined to crush her. She turned to her much older mentor for love, acceptance, and encouragement, and only received brutality in return. To add insult to injury, she is forced through a humiliating trial; the only thing that keeps her close to sane is her artwork and the stories of Judith and Susanna from the Bible. Searing, powerful, timely, brutal yet tender, Blood Water Paint is simply one of the best books I’ve ever read; I devoured it in a matter of hours. Highly recommended to all, especially those looking for a feminist narrative on fine art and the long-lasting effects of rape culture. The bottom line: A beautiful and timely story about a budding female artist in a time where women were not welcome, I loved Blood Water Paint—one of the best books of 2018! Artemisia Gentileschi will be in my heart and mind forever, and not just because she and I share a star sign! Next on deck: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones!

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