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Literary fiction, classics, dystopian, history, memoir, prize winners, and of course the 1001 books. You really might catch me reading anything!

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Empire of Cotton: A Global History
Sven Beckert
Progress: 220/656 pages

The Passion of Artemisia

The Passion of Artemisia - Susan Vreeland

Susan Vreeland wrote one of my favorite books—The Girl in Hyacinth Blue—and that book was simply so amazing and original that I have avoided the rest of Vreeland's work. I knwo that sounds crazy, but I feel that Girl cannot be replicated without becoming gimmicky.

 

I picked The Passion of Artemisia up at a $1 book store or used book sale, I can't really remember, but the price was right. And still it has sat here, making me feel guilty.

 

An "Arts" theme month in one of my goodreads groups convinced me to finally pick it up.

 

This book is very readable, and went much quicker than I was expecting ("art" is not my favorite thing). I definitely learned a lot from this book and the reading I have done on Artemisia Gentieschi online. I had never even heard of her before picking up this book. She was a real person, and the first woman admitted into Florence's Accademia di Arte del Disegno. Many of the paintings mentioned in this book are real, and can be viewed online (and they look nothing like what I was expecting—but I blame me, not Vreeland).

 

So, that's all good. But Vreeland plays fast and loose with the few facts known about Gentileschi, as she readily admits in the book club guide included in the back of my edition. Vreeland left out Gentileschi's brothers and sons to make the story "better"—but she also made her being an only child and having an only child one of her themes. It is one thing to leave out actual people to simplify the story, it is another to leave them out to make a theme. I also felt that she made Gentileschi out to be a 21st century feminist. Which a 17th century woman simply could not be.

 

I think I prefer my historical fiction to not be based on real people. As a historian and genealogist who has spent a lot of time in original documents, it freaks me out when facts are misportrayed on purpose. So much work goes into historical research, and to have it so easily tossed aside in the name of "story" upsets me.