Blog Tour + Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Posted March 5, 2018 by Madalyn || 7 Comments

Hello, friends, and welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Blood Water Paint! I’m excited to be a part of the tour for this stunning debut novel. Read on for my full review!

Blog Tour + Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCulloughBlood Water Paint by Joy McCullough
Published by Dutton Books for Young Readers on March 6th 2018
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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"When I finished this novel, I knew I would be haunted and empowered by Artemisia Gentileschi's story for the rest of my life." --Amanda Lovelace, award-winning author of the princess saves herself in this one

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint.

She chose paint.

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost.

He will not consumemy every thought.I am a painter.I will paint.

Joy McCullough's bold novel in verse is a portrait of an artist as a young woman, filled with the soaring highs of creative inspiration and the devastating setbacks of a system built to break her. McCullough weaves Artemisia's heartbreaking story with the stories of the ancient heroines, Susanna and Judith, who become not only the subjects of two of Artemisia's most famous paintings but sources of strength as she battles to paint a woman's timeless truth in the face of unspeakable and all-too-familiar violence.

I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Content warnings: rape, sexual assault, blood

 Whew, this book. People who have been around for a while probably know that YA historical fiction is my favorite genre. That alone made me excited about Blood Water Paint, but add in the promise of feminist themes? Sign me up. Blood Water Paint tells the story of renowned Italian Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Prior to reading this book, I had no knowledge of Gentileschi or her work, but I so enjoyed being in Artemisia’s head and hearing her story.

I was unsure about this story being told through verse, but after reading this book, I can’t imagine it having been written in any other way. McCullough’s words are so deliberate, so measured, and yet so stunning. The lyricism of her verse made the perfect vessel for this story of resilience and recovery from trauma. The fact that it’s written in verse also made Blood Water Paint a quick, one-sitting read for me.

This book intertwines Artemisia’s own story with the stories of the subjects of two of her most famous paintings: Susanna and Judith (both of Biblical fame). This method was so effective. Not only was it beautiful, but it showed how Artemisia’s art reflected her own experiences. The verse is also interspersed with passages of prose which depict Artemisia’s mother telling her the stories of Judith and Susanna as a child. Again, I was skeptical about this, but the end product of a story is nothing short of stunning. McCullough is truly a talented writer, and I can’t believe this is her debut novel.

Blood Water Paint depicts rape and the trauma that follows in a such a brutal, realistic way. It’s a story that, unfortunately, is all too relevant still. Though it’s hard to read at times, and though I was furious with the way Artemisia was treated by the people around her, her story is ultimately a hopeful one. It celebrates her decision to stand up for truth and justice in the face of immense hardship and shows that healing is possible. Artemisia Gentileschi truly led a remarkable life, and I’m so glad I know her story.

Overall, I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I predict it will land on many people’s lists of 2018 favorites. Whether you’re a fellow lover of historical fiction (and/or poetry!) or someone who rarely reads those genres, I encourage you to pick up this beautifully told, wonderfully feminist book.

follow the tour!

2/28 – The Fox’s Hideaway – Review
3/1 – Kaitbooktopia – Author Guest Post – Favorite Artemisia Painting
3/2 – JustAddaWord – Review
3/5 – Novel Ink – Review
3/6 – Adventures in YA Publishing – Q&A
3/7 – Bi Bookish Babe – Q&A
3/8 – Megan Write Now – Q&A
3/9 – Howling Libraries – Review
3/12 – Magical Reads – Review + Creative (hand lettering quotes)
3/13 – Crimson is Blogging – Review
3/14 – The Fandom – Author Guest Post – Her road to publication
3/15 – Wanderer in Neverland – Review

Have you read Blood Water Paint? If so, let’s discuss in the comments! If not, do you plan to read it?

About Joy McCullough

Joy McCullough writes books and plays from her home in the Seattle area, where she lives with her husband and two children. She studied theater at Northwestern University, fell in love with her husband atop a Guatemalan volcano, and now spends her days surrounded by books and kids and chocolate. Blood Water Paint is her debut novel.

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7 responses to “Blog Tour + Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

  1. I hadn’t heard of this book, but holy cow, that sounds like a ROUGH read. I have been gravitating towards more serious YA, so I think I’m going to have to add it to my TBR. I’m curious to see how the verse plays out. I can’t say I’ve read many verse novels.
    Great review, Madalyn!

    • It was HEAVY, but it did ultimately leave me feeling hopeful. It’s such an incredible story that I’m shocked I didn’t know anything about Artemisia Gentileschi prior to reading this book. Verse novels can be hit or miss for me, but it worked perfectly for this story. Thanks so much, Nick! I hope you enjoy this one if/when you get to it!

  2. I have never heard about this book before, but I have definitely heard about Artemisia Gentileschi! In my high school European History class, we briefly brushed over her story while talking about artists (who all happened to be rich, male, and white at the time besides her). Even though we only touched the surface of her story, I will never forget the brutal realism of her paintings. I am by no means knowledgeable about art, but I have always loved the story about the girl who painted against the system that tried to keep her silent.

    Anyway, now that I know about the book I will definitely pick it up soon. I almost never read books in verse, but I think the history and her story will be worth the step outside my comfort zone. Thanks for the thoughtful review!

  3. YES TO IT ALL. Ok, if I hadn’t gotten that email about this tour I probably wouldn’t have heard about this book til like 10 years later or if I had somehow miraculously heard about this in the now, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. But i’m SO GLAD I did. I’m not really a reader of more political statements or you know, just powerful stuff. I like to read me a fiction story and just enjoy my read but this was such a great read, mixing a story and feminism really well. It really packed a punch and it did not hold back. I also didn’t know much about Artemisia. We looked at one of her paintings in my art history class but we never really went in depth or anything so this made me even more curious about her (now i wanna go look up more of her stuff and read about her)

    Great review!!

    p.s. I changed my blog’s url to crimson613 (on the tour i’m crimson is blogging), sorry about the inconvenience

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