Apr 02, 11
Read from March 27 to April 02, 2011
I first read one of Vreeland's books when I was in middle school (Girl in Hyacinth Blue), and I remember enjoying it very much. I bought this book shortly thereafter, and then approximately 15 years went by, and I finally got around to reading it. I would have loved this book in middle or high school, but reading it now, at approximately 27, the writing and characterization were a bit too simplistic.
One thing Vreeland does do well in this book is get inside the mind of the main character, a female painter in Baroque Italy named Artemisia. The descriptions of her paintings and her creative process all seem very realistic and well thought-out, but most of the action and drama are watered down for a teenage audience (even though I'm pretty sure this is intended as a novel for adults).
Artemisia's relationship with Galileo was also a bit frustrating -- her version of spirituality (at least as Vreeland portrayed it) was simpering and cowardly, the kind of belief system that excuses ignorance by saying "Maybe there are some things we're not meant to know." That kind of sanctimonious, patronizing religion shows up a couple of times in the book and mars a character that I would otherwise find pretty likable.
Vreeland's writing is nothing special -- not particularly artistic or out-of-the-ordinary, just workaday language that gets the job done. Still, there is a story arc and the book was at least interesting enough for me to finish it.