4.5 stars! This refreshing book gave me a good deal to think about while keeping me turning pages. The stars of the book are Judith and Maria, though there are a number of other well known painters making cameo appearances (and that’s always fun).
Imagine this: Judith Leyster, woman painter in Haarlem, was actually admitted to the city’s art guild in 1635. What hardships did she have in pursuing her work, and do they compare to the hardships that professional women face today? In what ways does she pay for her desire to be treated equally? Calaghan’s debut novel made me think through my own professional career over the last twenty plus years. Judith fought each inch of the way to live by her brush; this still rings true today.
Also, her relationships with family and friends, such as that with Maria, don’t actually make her efforts easier. For example, though Judith and Maria basically grew up together, they’ve grown apart and don’t know how to find their way back to their friendship. Basically that desire, though there for both, takes a lower place to the other desires of their hearts, as our friendships so often do. I enjoyed watching the ebb and flow of this friendship to its conclusion in the book. Maria was the harder of the two characters to relate to (for me), due to her crushing guilt over everything-everything, but she felt also very true, historically speaking, and I enjoyed rooting for her to stand tall and shed the guilt cloak.
Now what was different for me about this book (that I really enjoyed) is that—though there was a love interest or two—that is certainly not the point of the novel. The focal point is truly about two women trying to live (or find) their dreams in a man’s word. Also the world and art came alive with the descriptions. Great job, Carrie! Highly recommend.
OH—one more weird life thing. My maiden name is Snelling. This is the first book I’ve ever read that ever had that name in it. Family lore says it’s a “black Dutch” name. Also, that Grandad’s branch were descendants of William of Orange (female who didn’t inherit, in America before the Civil War). Grandad’s middle name is Orange so 🤷🏻♀️ maybe? Anyway, it was fun to read a book with both those names in it, placed in the right part of the word. 😎