• Eva

Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough


As much as I've never been one to find a book written entirely in verse a high selling point, I thought the subject matter of these poems was extraordinarily moving, so wanted to give it a try.


Based on the true story of the painter Artemisia Gentileschi, Blood Water Paint takes us through the most intimate moments of Artemisia's life. Losing her mother at the age of twelve, she is left with a choice: become a nun at a convent or grind her father's paint. She chooses the latter. By the age of 17, she is now one of the most prolific painters in all of Rome. But this being 17th century Italy, Artemisia is raped and must choose between a life of silence, or to tell the truth at a great cost.


Books that can sensitively and properly discuss sexual assault are often the ones I find the most fascinating. Absorbing the information in poetry was a completely new experience.

Despite this being based on a real historical person, the book does not read like a history non-fiction book. The book is able to accurately capture the scene of a male driven society and how rare it was for a woman to 'step out of line'. It was especially rare for a man to be taken to trial for raping a woman, something that was almost unheard of in the 1600s, which puts the protagonist in a torturous position to confirm she is telling the truth; in many ways it doesn't come across as dissimilar to the current legal systems put in place to deal with victims of sexual assault. As much as I loved the subject matter and the intention of the author to shed light on the story of a historical figure in a unique way, I still would have preferred for this to be written like a historical fiction novel, and not poetry. Some of the emotive and intense scenes could have benefitted with being more in depth and fleshed out. However, this is merely a personal preference as I don't get as much out of reading poetry as I would from reading a novel. Some of the poems were really beautiful and I was able to truly appreciate the work and skill McCullough must have to be able to emit such thought provoking content through so few words - I expect this is the ultimate challenge with poetry. However, there were moments that I felt could have benefitted from being more detailed.


If you are a fan of poetry or are looking for something different, I would highly recommend this book. Despite being someone that doesn't particularly like reading an entire book of poetry, I am still glad I read Blood Water Paint as it showed me what poems are able to do that a standard novel cannot; I was able to truly appreciate the language. But due to poetry not being my media of choice, it wasn't for me, but I'm glad I tried it!


Rating: 3 stars

Publication Date: 6 March 2018

Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers

Genres: Poetry, Historical Fiction

# of Pages: 298

Links: Goodreads, Amazon


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