Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Book Review: Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough @JMCwrites

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough book cover and review
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Blood Water Paint.

Written mostly in verse, Blood Water Paint is a fictionalized account of the life of painter Artemisia Gentileschi, who was born in 1593. Her mother dies, and either she must enter the convent or work for her father mixing his paints.  Eventually her artistic skills surpass her father’s, and he passes off her work as his own. He hires a teacher, Agostino Tassi,  to help her with her painting. Her father is hoping Tassi's connections will win him a huge commission.  She is raped by this teacher.

Of course in this time period, she isn't expected to tell anyone. Her support and her strength come from her visions of two ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, whose stories she heard from her mother. These stories are recounted in prose and are woven through Artemisia's story. Both of these women bore many hardships and persevered in the face of insurmountable challenges. These women become subjects for Artemisia's paintings and gave her the will to persevere. Eventually she tells her father and he (since a woman isn't allowed to) brings charges against Tassi. After a lengthy investigation, trial, and much physical suffering, he is eventually found guilty. But when I say "physical suffering" -- well, you have no idea. Since Artemisia may never be able to paint again and this man gets only a five year banishment, this isn't much of a victory.

Some scenes are brutal, so be warned. And Blood Water Paint is more of a challenge than some books in verse. The poetry sections read like poetry - it's not just prose written in little lines.

Ultimately a story of feminist strength and survival, It may be a challenge to entice teens to pick Blood Water Paint up. I almost wish it was marketed to adults, but its powerful message may be worth the effort to push it to certain teens.

Published by Dutton Children's, March 6, 2018
ARC obtained from School Library Connection Magazine
292 pages

Rating: 3.5/5

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  1. I keep flip flopping about ordering this one for my library collection. I know it's important and has gotten fabulous reviews, but I also know that it will not circulate at all. I'm curious to see if you've got any takers at your school.

    1. I don't have any more funds to purchase it this year, and I'm retiring, so it will be up to my successor. With my limited budget, I'm not sure I would add it (maybe if it comes out in paperback!)


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