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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Book Review: The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen

The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen
ARC, Paperback, 400 pages
Putnam Adult
March 23, 2010

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Genre: Art Historical Fiction

Source: Received from publisher for review
“A lush and compelling tale of royal intrigue and artistic longing, set in the sixteenth–century Spanish court. 

The Creation of Eve is based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female portraitist of the Renaissance. After a scandal in Michelangelo’s workshop, Sofonisba flees Italy and joins the Spanish court of King Felipe II to be a lady-in-waiting to his young bride. Sofonisba befriends the queen, only to become embroiled in a love triangle involving the queen, the king, and the king’s illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. The Creation of Eve combines art, romance, and history from the golden age in Spain in a story that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?”

When I heard about this book, months before it was to be released, I knew that I just had to read it. See, I had to do a senior project on Sofonisba Anguissola about a year ago and fell in love with her story. I just had to see if it turned out to be everything that I loved about her story.

One of the things that I loved about the style of this book was the way that each segment of the story started with an “item”. These items related to what was going to happen in the chapter and were related to social commentary, art tips, quotes from famous people, etc. These were always enlightening to me about the period and the people. I also really loved the relationship between Sofie and Queen Elizabeth. It was known that they were very close and I could believe that this was how their relationship was.

On the other side of things, I was a little disappointed with the lack of descriptions of her paintings or her even painting at all. She is most known for the fabulous paintings of the Spanish court members, and the only paintings that were described were at the very beginning of the story – before she ever went to the Spanish court! She spent most of her time talking about how she would “like” to paint or how she was “going to” teach the Queen how to draw – but it was much more talk than action. I was also a little disappointed in Sofie’s demeanor. Right from the start when she meets Tiberio, she longs for him, and wishes for him, and all she thinks about is him. I just found her to be too whiny (to be realistic or believable).

Without going into detail about the ending, I will say that it was action packed right up until the very end. It was very enjoyable and exciting – and to anyone who doesn’t know about her, they would probably very much like this ending. I on the other hand, having studied her and her work in depth, found it a little too farfetched and fictional to be believable at all.

I’m going to say that overall I was more disappointed with this book than I was excited. I think if more of her artwork was included and had went a little more into her life after the Spanish court (which was where all of her real romance and love of her life occurred) I would have enjoyed it SO much more. While I enjoyed the story, it just didn’t hit it out of the park for me – but I will say that it could partially because I have researched a lot about her life.

Take this opportunity to read the first chapter and get a taste as to whether this book is for you.

Reviews of this book by other bloggers:

Buy the Book: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | RJ Julia

Also by Lynn Cullen:

reign of madness
Reign of Madness

mrs poe
Mrs. Poe
[My Review]

rembrandts daughter
I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter

twains end
Twain’s End

Find Lynn Cullen: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest 


Copyright © 2010 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I would very much like to read this novel. I love your honest review, you pointed out good and bad things. It's too bad her works are not better described, as I am not familiar with Sofonisba Anguissola and would appreciate some input on that. Still, I'd like to read this book at one point. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Typically this is my favorite kind of novel -- one that really educates me -- but I'm disappointed to hear what's lacking! Your enthusiasm for Sofonisba's work is infectious!

  3. Audra and Irena and everyone else - check out my post tomorrow. I am showing some of her works and also some of the best facts about her. I had to get that in after what was lacking.

  4. This is a comment to both your Sofonisba posts.

    I always think it is so amazing when quinky-dinks (that is what I have always called those unexplainable quirks of life) like you having to study about an unknown artist, to you at the time, for your senior project and then turn around and find out a lush, new HF will be coming out with your artist in it. Quinky-dinks should normally have a happier outcome than yours though. After reading your fascinating historical tidbits on Sofonisba and then feeling your excitement upon finding her the subject of a new book, I eagerly read your review. I truly felt your disappointment and now wonder if I still want to read this book. I love Art HF that immerses me in the creative process, that makes me smell the paint so to speak, and explores the artist psyche. It seems that this book centers more on her time at the Spanish court which is not what I expected. I won't say no yet, I will check other reviews and also check out the first chapter as you suggested but....

  5. FurryReaders - I too thought that it was such a phenomenal stroke of luck that there was going to be a book about her. I was going to write to my teacher to tell her to read it because she was in love with her story too - but I am second thinking that one now. I think if you don't know anything about her prior to reading it, you will enjoy the story. I thought it was a good story, but it wasn't quite what I expected. Sofie painted some of her best works during the time she was at the Spainish court - and that wasn't included at all. She mentioned a few at the beginning, but...

  6. Your review hit the nail headon with this book. I felt the same way about it. I wnated more of Sofie, especially about her art and life. I got distracted by the other characters and how Sofie was used as more of a vechile to tell their story rather than her own. Great review.

  7. Ryan G - I couldn't agree more! I'm glad I'm not the only one who felt that way.


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