The Creation of Eve
By Lynn Cullen
(Putnam Adult, Hardcover, 9780399156106, 400pp.)
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
List Price: $25.95*
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It's 1559. A young woman painter is given the honor of traveling to Michelangelo's Roman workshop to learn from the Maestro himself. Only men are allowed to draw the naked figure, so she can merely observe from afar the lush works of art that Michelangelo sculpts and paints from life. Sheltered and yet gifted with extraordinary talent, she yearns to capture all that life and beauty in her own art. But after a scandal involving one of Michelangelo's students, she flees Rome and fears she has doomed herself and her family.
The Creation of Eve is a riveting novel based on the true but little- known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After Sofi's flight from Rome, her family eagerly accepts an invitation from fearsome King Felipe II of Spain for her to become lady-in-waiting and painting instructor to his young bride. The Spanish court is a nest of intrigue and gossip, where a whiff of impropriety can bring ruin. Hopelessly bound by the rules and restrictions of her position, Sofi yearns only to paint. And yet the young Queen needs Sofi's help in other matters- inexperiences as she is, the Queen not only fails to catch the King's eye, but she fails to give him an heir, both of which are crimes that could result in her banishment. Sofi guides her in how best to win the heart of the King, but the Queen is too young, and too romantic, to be satisfied. Soon, Sofi becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the Queen, the King, and the King's illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. And if the crime of displeasing the King is banishment, the crime of cuckolding him must surely be death.
Combining art, drama, and history from the Golden Age of Spain, The Creation of Eve is an expansive, original, and addictively entertaining novel that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person's heart?
Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel The Creation of Eve, as many acclaimed books for children. She lives with her husband in Atlanta, where she is at work on her next novel.
"Cullen richly draws her principal characters and their milieu, effectively transporting the reader back to 16th-century Italy and Spain.... Believable storytelling and wonderfully descriptive writing make The Creation of Eve a must-read for those who love historical fiction, especially if they also love art."
"An intoxicating tale of love, betrayal and redemption. Cullen tackles the contradictions of the Renaissance and captures the dangerous spirit of the Inquisition while handling these vivid characters with prodigious control. The Creation of Eve is a historical romance that teaches as it touches."
"The Creation of Eve [is a] lavishly detailed, sparkling re-creation. With this suspenseful, evocative tapestry of Renaissance life, art, and royal skullduggery, Lynn Cullen has made a skillful-and, with any luck, permanent-jump into adult fiction."
-Atlanta Journal Constitution
"Endlessly readable, deeply fascinating, and often stunning."
-Open Letters Monthly
"Lynn Cullen weaves a glittering tapestry in The Creation of Eve, blending themes of art, gender and politics into a provocative novel that feels surprisingly timely."
"Stunning...Cullen obviously immersed herself in the history of Spain's Golden Age, but she never allows her research to outmuscle the story told by her graceful and intelligent narrator. A swoon-worthy blend of mystery, romance, and history."
"The year is 1560; Elizabeth of Valois (1544-68) has just become the third wife of King Felipe of Spain, and the talented female painter Sofonisba Anguissola (1532-1625) has been appointed art instructor to the young queen. In a court filled with all manner of politics, from religious debate to petty jealousies and forbidden love affairs, these two conflicted and often unhappy young women find in each other a much-needed friend and companion. Through the eyes of Sofi, Cullen captivates her readers with the thrill and drama of 16th-century Spain. Hewing closely to historical record, the author fills in enough spaces to make a satisfying story but strategically leaves certain details to the imagination, a trick that has the reader deliciously wishing for just a little bit more.
VERDICT Marking a strong adult historical fiction debut for YA author Cullen (I Am Rembrandt's Daughter), this is a good choice for fans of Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant, or Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. Highly recommended."
"The Creation of Eve is above all the gorgeously written, beautifully structured story of Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian Renaissance painter who happened to be both great and female. She is the staunchly intelligent narrator of Lynn Cullen's complex, meticulously researched portrayal of the Court of Spain in the 1560's, and a true heroine in her own right. This novel is a juicy plum from start to finish."
-Kate Christensen, author of The Great man and The Epicure's Lament
"To read The Creation of Eve is to experience that wholly delicious bookish pleasure of total immersion. Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian painter, is sent to Spain as portraitist to Elisabeth de Valois and there, amid the baroque intricacy of court politics, rivalry, and romantic intrigue, she struggles to carve out her role-and her legacy-as one of the most admired painters of her day. I found this novel about the quest for fulfillment in art and love enormously satisfying and I'm grateful to Cullen for the pleasures of such a splendid read."
-Sara Gruen, author of Water for Elephants
"What a marvelous, rich and compelling novel! Lynn Cullen draws an astonishingly vivid world of a gifted woman artist who has studied with Michelangelo and the young unhappy Queen of Spain whom she serves in that turbulent 16th century court. Each woman suffers for a love she cannot have in a time when women were powerless; drawn further into the young Queen's secrets, the artist will risk everything to help her. Turn and find yourself in the 16th century. I was unable to put the novel down and lived in its world."
-Stephanie Cowell, author Marrying Mozart
"Through the keen eye of a painter trained in observation, we are drawn into the rarefied and restricted life of a queen and a court bristling with intrigue, jealousy, misplaced love, escape and escapade---what could be more tantalizing? With rich visual description, Lynn Cullen secures her place in the tradition of regal historical fiction."
-Susan Vreeland, author of Luncheon of the Boating Party and Girl in Hyacinth Blue
"The Creation of Eve takes readers to a fascinating time--the Renaissance--and introduces us to a remarkable woman, a talented artist neglected by history. Thanks to Lynn Cullen, Sofonisba Anguissola is now unforgettable."
-Sharon Kay Penman, author of Devil's Brood