Monday, March 15, 2010

Review & Blog Tour: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

"Will I ever understand the workings of the human heart? Will I ever know why we so often love those whom we cannot possess, and why we do not cherish those whose love we do possess? We are as thistledown twitching and turning in the current, captives to feelings we cannot control. How are we to understand those persons who mean the most to us when we cannot truly understand our own blind and hapless selves?"

Sofonisba Anguissola

Lynn Cullen's novel, The Creation of Eve, tells the story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first gifted female painter of the Renaissance. She studied with Michelangelo and her work was noted in her own time in The Lives of the Artists by Giorgio Vasari, but she has largely been forgotten by the modern world.

Early in her life, Sofi displayed a talent for drawing. Her father, a printer and bookseller, defied convention and encouraged her to develop her gift. Painting, at the time, was a pastime for men, like most other activities. So his support was crucial for her success. She was invited by renowned artist Michelangelo to study with him after he saw one of her sketches. While in Rome, she meets Tiberio Calcogni, another student of Michelangelo's. She falls in love with him but their single assignation is discovered. She flees for her home in Cremona, fearing the consequences.

She hopes to hear an offer of marriage from Tiberio, but none is made. In order to save her own reputation and that of her family, Sofi accepts a position as lady-in-waiting to King Philip of Spain's third wife, Elisabeth of Valois. Doing so requires her to give up her dream of becoming a master painter. (Employees of the king are not allowed to sign their work. Sofi's portraits done after her arrival in Spain are unsigned, resulting in confusion and mis-attribution of her work to contemporary male artists.)

King Philip had been married twice before (most notably to Mary Tudor of England) and widowed twice. His ambition to marry Elizabeth I of England after the death of her sister has come to nothing. So, he is in his early thirties when he marries Elisabeth of Valois, daughter of Catherine de Medici of France. She is just fourteen years old.

Elisabeth of Valois

Sofi grows to love the young, impetuous Queen. But she is increasingly troubled by Elisabeth's developing interest in the King's half brother, Don Juan. The relationship between the King and Queen is often strained. He is saddled with the enormous task of running an empire that spreads over most of Europe. He does not have the youth or glamour of Don Juan and can't take the time to try to truly win the heart of his wife. The result is a love triangle that can never result in a happy ending. Sofi can only be there for the Queen and do her best to lessen the friction that exists between the three.

King Philip II of Spain

When Sofi eventually hears the fate of Michelangelo and her beloved Tiberio, she is devastated. But she cannot afford to show her pain and grief, the inquisition is in full swing. And though she is only a lady-in-waiting, she has developed enemies. She will have to tread carefully to emerge successfully from the embroiled court of Philip II.

Lynn Cullen

This is historical fiction at its best! Fascinating real life characters with life breathed into them by a talented writer with a gift for imagining the possibilities so well that the story feels not only possible, but probable. I loved Sofi and her story and appreciated a look at Philip of Spain that was not through the eyes of any of the Tudors. A lovely book, vividly imagined, full of rich history. I loved it and highly recommend it!

All of the paintings displayed on this page were painted by Sofonisba Anguissola.

For more information about the author and her books, please visit her website. You can also see more of Sofi's paintings at Lynn's website, click here.

The Creation of Eve is published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, ISBN 978-0-399-15510-6.

Many thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing my review copy! You can see all the other stops on the blog tour here.


bermudaonion said...

This does sound great and it makes me thankful that I didn't live back then. Great review!

S. Krishna said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this one so much! I'm definitely adding it to my TBR list.

trish said...

Wow! I love how you included Sofonisba's paintings in your review! She was really quite talented.

I think it takes a special author to be able to bring history to life, and it sounds like Lynn does this deftly!

Thanks for being on this tour!

Lynn Cullen said...

Thanks for your thoughtful review of my book. You really covered all the bases!

Beth F said...

Awesome post with the visuals. I"m adding this to my list.

Donna said...

This sounds great! I really enjoy historical stories. Another one for my wish list...

Amy said...

I just finished this last night and really enjoyed it. I agree, it's historical fiction at its best.

Zibilee said...

I am on this tour as well, and I just loved this book! It was a really engrossing read for me as well and I am glad you enjoyed it. I loved your review on this one, and really appreciated all the artwork as well!

Linda said...

From books I've read about Mary Tudor and Elizabeth I, I feel slightly acquainted with Philip. This book sounds interesting.

Benita said...

This is a story I'm not familiar with and so I'm grateful for your detailed account. I'd love to read this work and become more acquainted Sofonisba and her works of art.


Elise said...

Sounds like a very polished, intricate portrait of Sofi's life. I like how she was on of the few women artists during her time among the men. I would enjoy this book.
caliblue7 at gmail dot com

Sheila Deeth said...

Lovely review. This sounds really interesting - interesting times, interesting people and interesting story.

sdeeth at msn dot com

brokenteepee said...

It is truly shameful how women of talent were treated in past times.
thank you

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear you loved this book. It sounds great to me, too. I had never heard of Sofonisba Anguissola before now. It seems women never got credit for anything good they did back in that time.

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.