A Light of Her Own
by Carrie Callaghan
Publication Date: November 13, 2018
Hardcover; 320 Pages
In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place.
Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to become the first woman admitted to the prestigious Haarlem artist’s guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic.
Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandt and an uncompromising religion.
Did you guys know that I am something of an art lover? It’s true. I absolutely adore art; I like many different artists and different styles, so when I have an opportunity to read a book featuring an artist that I like, I definitely try to take the chance. When I read that Judith Leyster was a featured character in this one, I jumped on this blog tour in a hot minute.
“Judith leaned against the small window ledge and looked inside. The frigid twilight air seeped past her cloak into her many layers of tunics and her well-worn bodice, and the painted ledge below her numb fingertips had dulled to the gray of a low sky. Behind the glass, the inn’s golden light beckoned, and though it was not yet suppertime, already drinkers dressed in shades of brown sat at small tables. Her teeth chattered with cold and nerves.”
Thus, we meet her, waiting outside of a tavern for someone to sell a painting for her and to give her the coins. As she is not a Master, she is not allowed to sell her own work. Joining the Guild is damn near impossible, though eventually, she becomes one of two women to do so. Her talent is undeniable, particularly to Frans de Grebber, to whom she had been apprenticed to since she was thirteen. She is twenty-three at our meeting her. Dejected and disappointed, she makes her way back to him and her room that she shares with Maria, a fellow artist, and Frans’ daughter.
I absolutely adored this novel. I felt like Ms. Callaghan used words as a brush, painting the world for us and making it a vivid painting. I was delighted to be drawn back into the seventeenth century. She doesn’t hide anything, the grit, the hustle, and bustle, the patriarchy–everything was very male-dominated back then. Yet, despite all of the odds against her, Judith’s determination shines through. It is not a spoiler if you know the history that she achieves the goal of joining the Guild and becomes a Master herself. Only one woman previous to herself had attained such a goal.
Maria’s story is good, but I think it was wasted here; her heart wasn’t into art as much as it was into devotion to God. She was a devout Catholic in the very Protestant Netherlands. (Thus, she had to hide it.) I enjoyed it, but the spark wasn’t as bright as when Judith’s story was being told. I’d have rather just continued with Judith. There were moments where I felt that Maria was being childish and did not act her age. Whilst I know that life was cruel to her and she was trying to make up for something, I just found her sort of forgettable. Perhaps that is the curse of having such a vibrant, lively character in Judith? Whatever it was, I didn’t feel that much of a connection to Maria.
I love when someone takes history and writes a story from it, bringing it even more to life. So often stories are simply left to history, where they disappear and are footnotes. Judith shouldn’t be left to be forgotten. Hers is a story that everyone, especially those who love art should hear; they should learn about determination and how never to give up. I look forward to reading whatever Ms. Callaghan writes next.
Carrie Callaghan is a writer living in Maryland with her spouse, two young children, and two ridiculous cats. Her short fiction has appeared in Weave Magazine, The MacGuffin, Silk Road, Floodwall, and elsewhere. Carrie is also an editor and contributor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has a Master’s of Arts in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Blog Tour Schedule
Tuesday, November 13
Review at A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, November 14
Interview at A Bookish Affair
Thursday, November 15
Review at Broken Teepee
Friday, November 16
Review at View from the Birdhouse
Sunday, November 18
Review at Carole’s Ramblings
Tuesday, November 20
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Wednesday, November 21
Review at Clarissa Reads it All
Friday, November 23
Review at Historical Fiction with Spirit
Monday, November 26
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Tuesday, November 27
Review at What Cathy Read Next
Wednesday, November 28
Review at Pass Me That Book
Thursday, November 29
Interview at Passages to the Past
Friday, November 30
Review at Donna’s Book Blog
Monday, December 3
Review & Interview at Reading the Past
Tuesday, December 4
Review at 100 Pages a Day
Wednesday, December 5
Review at I’m Shelf-ish
Thursday, December 6
Interview at Let Them Read Books
Friday, December 7
Review at Pursuing Stacie
During the Blog Tour we will be giving away 2 signed hardcovers of A Light of Her Own! To enter, please see the Gleam form below.
– Giveaway ends at 11:59pm EST on December 7th. You must be 18 or older to enter.
– Giveaway is open to US residents only.
– Only one entry per household.
– All giveaway entrants agree to be honest and not cheat the systems; any suspect of fraud is decided upon by blog/site owner and the sponsor, and entrants may be disqualified at our discretion.
– Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.