Fighting for success in 17th century Amsterdam, a female artist must risk everything – and make enemies along the way.
Clara Peeters’ idyllic upbringing is shattered by her mother’s death, leaving her with a secret horror of childbirth. When her childhood love, Henri, proposes marriage and she refuses, they are both left heartbroken, though she must conceal her pain.
Defying convention, gifted artist Clara becomes a pupil to the renowned painter, Osias Beerts. But when the highly prized patronage won from the powerful Burgomeister Fabritius turns to hostility, Clara has to make sacrifices and risk everything to pursue her craft.
Together with fellow pupil Nico, the two find themselves surrounded by dangerous secrets and powerful enemies. But in the face of so much past pain, can something as fragile as love survive?
Still Life: A 17th Century Historical Romance Novel by Dodie Bishop
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Throughout this 17th century tale death in childbirth and the power over, patronage of and rape and sexual abuse of women are powerful themes. Along with witch persecution and the taboo and abhorrence of same sex male partners to love and live openly at that historical time period.
Clara mother’s dies in childbirth leaving her with an overwhelming fear of ever becoming pregnant and this has huge consequences for her personal love life. Clara is a strong willed artist determined to make her way in a world ruthlessly dominated by men. Clara tolerates Fabritius’s ‘patronage,’ until it is clear what sort of man he is and her sister Adela is somewhat foolish making some terrible choices with regard to men with horrendous outcomes. Clara’s aunt disapproves of her painting, as do so many others but Clara’s admirable force of will and determination to succeed overcomes prejudice to follow her chosen career path often at the detriment of her life in other ways.
What an engaging tale. I loved this and became so absorbed in the life of artist Clara and the wonderful variety of characters in this story. The descriptive writing really pulled me in. The ending was so poignant, emotional and sad. Life wasn’t easy for women way back then! She had to be tough! She is such a strong character full of determination and I really loved Constanza, Nico and Henri too.
Notes from Wikipedia: “Clara Peeters was a Flemish still-life painter from Antwerp who worked in both the Spanish Netherlands and Dutch Republic. Peeters is the best-known female Flemish artist of this era and one of the few women artists working professionally in seventeenth-century Europe, despite restrictions on women’s access to artistic training and membership in guilds. Peeters specialized in still-life paintings with food and was prominent among the artists who shaped the traditions of the Netherlandish ontbijtjes, “breakfast pieces,” scenes of food and simple vessels, and banketjes, “banquet pieces” with expensive cups and vessels in precious metals.”
Listened to on Audiobook – the narrator did a fabulous job.
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