A Light of Her Own

Car­rie Callaghan Am­ber­jack Pub­lish­ing (NOVEM­BER) Hard­cover $24.99 (320pp), 978-1-944995-89-8

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews | Adult Fiction - HAN­NAH HOHMAN

A Light of Her Own is a beau­ti­fully crafted story set in seven­teenth-cen­tury Hol­land, in which two women nav­i­gate the law, des­tiny, and their un­stop­pable am­bi­tion.

Paint­ing is Ju­dith Leyster’s pas­sion and call­ing, and she will not be dis­suaded from it. Though there are many who scoff at no­tions of women work­ing—or even par­tic­i­pat­ing in what is re­garded as a man’s pro­fes­sion—she does not back down. Mean­while, Maria de Greb­ber’s Catholic faith guides her through life, even though it, too, is dis­dained in Hol­land.

Car­rie Callaghan imag­ines a pro­found friend­ship be­tween the his­tor­i­cal women, and Ju­dith and Maria’s sto­ries weave to­gether and apart, their fates car­ry­ing them. Ju­dith strug­gles to keep paint­ing in the face of ad­ver­si­ties, in­clud­ing those re­lated to her gen­der. Her brother brings shame to the fam­ily name, and teach­ing ap­pren­tices comes with fees and dif­fi­cul­ties. Mean­while, Maria bat­tles a se­cret that weighs her down.

Hol­land is de­vel­oped as an al­lur­ing and dis­tinc­tive place. De­scrip­tions cover ev­ery mo­ment; they are elo­quent and el­e­gantly de­tailed, down to the most com­mon­place things, as with a men­tion of the light shin­ing through the petals of a flower. The time is es­tab­lished through ex­am­i­na­tions of the de­vel­op­ing art scene and the im­mense worth of tulips. Art and beauty are pri­or­i­ties in this world, and in­tri­cate de­scrip­tions cap­ture it: of Ju­dith’s house where she paints, of lep­ers in a safe house. Sen­sory de­tails evoke the light, the feel, and the smell of the set­ting.

A Light of Her Own is a riv­et­ing fic­tion­al­ized ac­count of Ju­dith Leyster and Maria de Greb­ber’s con­nec­tions.

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