Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Posted August 20, 2020 by Stephanie in Reviews / 8 Comments

Title: Blood Water Paint
Author: Joy McCullough
Publication: March 5th 2019 by Penguin Books
Genre: Poetry, Historical Fiction
Purchase it on: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Google Play | Kobo
Rating: 5/5★

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.

“When I finished this novel, I knew I would be haunted and empowered by Artemisia Gentileschi’s story for the rest of my life.”–Amanda Lovelace, bestselling author of the princess saves herself in this one

★”A captivating and impressive debut about a timeless heroine.”–Booklist, starred review
★”Belongs on every YA shelf.”–SLJ, starred review
★”A haunting, stirring depiction of an unforgettable woman.”–Publishers Weekly, starred review
★”Luminous.”–Shelf Awareness, starred review

Blood Water Paint is a historical fiction novel written in verse about seventeenth-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi who’s rape by painter Agostino Tassi and the seven-month trial that followed were quite infamous. To verify Artemisia’s testimony she was tortured by thumbscrews that broke her hands.

I haven’t read many verse written novels but this one was an absolute gem. When I found out about the book I already had a strong feeling that it would be just my kind of read and I’m so glad that I turned out to be right. I just love when that happens.

Aside from Artemisia’s story we were also told about the biblical stories of Susanna and Judith as told as bedtime stories by Artemisia’s mother when Artemisia was just a child. And as the synopsis says Susanna and Judith are two of Artemisia’s most famous paintings, so I just love that the author added those to the story in this way.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough was wonderful and powerful as well as heartbreaking and poignant. I will forever recommend this book to my fellow readers.


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