Joy McCullough produces a searing blend of poetry and prose in her tale of Artemesia Gentileschi, a Roman artist who lived in the early 1600’s. Daughter of artist Orazio Gentileschi, Artemesia inherited and surpassed her father’s talent, but as a woman, she had no autonomy, no ability to support herself, and no recognition of her genius. She did, however, have an art teacher; he betrayed her trust, raped her, and ruined her reputation, her ability to marry, and her sense of the world.
Releasing this book at the height of the “me too” movement, is not lost on this reader. Artemesia is a strong, willful character, and she is keenly aware of her status as a second class citizen compared to the men in her life. Using the stories her mother told her — and subjects of her own future paintings — Susanna and Judith guide her toward healing and redemption. McCullough has written an inspired historical fiction that feels like today’s headlines, but reads as an urgent plea for help and justice. Beautiful.
–Dianah Hughley, Powell’s Books, Portland, OR