Y.A. Historical Fiction (292 pgs.)
Rembrandt van Rijn was once the most admires and respected artist in Amsterdam. But as Rembrandt teeters on the brink of madness, only his daughter, Cornelia, cares enough to stay by his side--though she too is haunted by secrets and scandal.
With her mother dead of the plague and her brother newly married, Cornelia is left without a friend or confidante. But she steals happiness from her growing relationship with Carel, the wealthy son of a shipping magnate, and the dark and brooding Neel, her father's last remaining pupil. Carel's passion for the arts stirs something in Cornelia, but Neel's devotion to her father touches her. With two suitors who are unfazed by her family's drama, Cornelia must find the path to her heart.
Cornelia van Rijn, the daughter of one of the world's most renown painters, is a homey sort of gal with a big heart and huge dreams. She has a father who sometimes embarrasses her, dreams of marrying the handsome, rich merchant down the street, but ends up falling for the her best friend, the man she's truly loved all along. Almost just like me... well, about 400 years later.
This book is really beautifully written. Sometimes the prose is plain and unadorned, which I think reflects on the meticulous and pristine Dutch culture of that time period. But when Cornelia visits her sister-in-law (who is quite wealthy), as a reader you can really feel Cornelia is out of her element, with 'silk this' and 'china that', 'gold this' and 'silver that'. I love how Lynn Cullen uses the culture and society to really influence her writing and make the history more "liveable" to the readers. You really sense the dramatic change between scenes with the middle class and the upper crust.
I also loved the fact that at certain places in the book, Lynn Cullen inserts a small chapter recounting Cornelia's past, and each of these flash back chapters are accompanied by one of Rembrandt's famous paintings. This kind of relates the story behind each of his paintings, and I thought that was really awesome, not just for the cool back-story, but for the art history as well.
Another thing that I really enjoyed about this book was that Cornelia didn't end up with her "dream suitor" in the end (a.k.a the rich, handsome merchant). I thought it was downright refreshing for the heroine NOT to end up with her "prince charming." Well, I kind of take that back. She DID end up with her prince charming, it's just not the prince charming she was expecting. It was the prince charming that was with her all along, and she didn't even know it. I think that that is even more romantic for me. :)
Getting inside of Rembrandt's head in this book is really interesting. Books that revolve around famous artists are always interesting for me. Art is such a dynamic subject and such a reflection of culture that I always enjoy a book about it (especially a historical fiction book about it).
All in all, this is a tremendous read. I love Cornelia's strong-hearted character and the way Lynn Cullen steeped this book in 17th century Dutch culture. Super good!! Love the art history as well. A great read!!