Favorite Book Feature: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Last year I featured some of my favorite books each month with special posts saying why I love these books. You can check out my favorites book page to find links to my reviews of all of my favorites. But because I’m always adding new books to my favorites list, I thought I’d do new features each time another book makes the list.

Ask any book lover their favorite book, and they’ll find it nearly impossible to name just one. I have over fifty books on my favorites list, if you count all the books in series. If I absolutely had to say one book, it would be Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. But there are so many books that resonate with me for many different reasons, and so I call them all my favorites.

The newest addition to the list is a novel-in-verse (the first poetry to make the favorites list!)—Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough.

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Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Blood Water Paint is based on the true story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a 17th century Roman painter. Artemisia had incredible talent and was one of the most talented painters of her time, but no one knew because her father would sign his name to her paintings. And despite how little women were valued in her time, Artemisia chose to speak the truth in her art and take her rapist to court, no matter the consequences.

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The afterword in Blood Water Paint

I’ve been trying to branch out a bit more in my reading this year, and one of the things I’ve been trying to read more of is verse. While I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy regular poetry, I am loving all of the novels-in-verse I have read. There is just something I love about reading the bare bones of a story along with the poetic language.

I also love that this book is not entirely in verse. Throughout Artemisia’s story, McCullough intersperses prose narrative stories that Artemisia’s mother told her when she was young. These stories are about Susanna and Judith, heroines who end up being the subjects of Artemisia’s most famous works and who inspire Artemisia to not be silent.

The best part about Blood Water Paint is its strong take on violence against women. This book takes place a long time ago, yet not much has changed in how charges of rape are handled. Artemisia struggles to have her voice heard and risks everything to stand up for the truth. And she also finds healing through her art, which is a theme I love to explore in my writing.

Blood Water Paint is Joy McCullough’s debut novel, and I can’t wait to see what else she does!

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