Okay. So I’ve been missing again and have returned with yet another excuse. This time I contracted the most intense illness I’ve had in years. I seriously thought I was patient zero in the new pandemic that would destroy the world. Thankfully, I’m feeling relatively back to normally which just means I was able to gorge myself on food again tonight. I’ve lost 5 lbs. in 5 days so the calories were definitely welcome.
Right before the death disease kicked in, I hosted book club on Sunday and we discussed The Creation of Eve by Lynn Cullen (a local Atlanta author). Eve tells the story of Sofonisba Anguissola (just call her Sofi), the first world renowned female painter of the Renaissance. She is “hired” (more like bought) by King Felipe II of Spain (concurrent to Elizabeth’s rule in England during the 16th Century) to become one of his new child bride’s ladies and painting instructor. Wackiness of the historical fiction variety then ensues.
I always feel like a fraud writing anything remotely critical about historical fiction as it’s not a genre I read often. Several ladies in the Litwits adore historical fictional and they assured me this novel is of the highest class. Our discussion was intense, lengthy, entertaining, smart, and stayed on topic the ENTIRE TIME. For those in book clubs, I know you know how much of a feat that tends to be. What really works with Cullen’s novel is the intricacies of the plot – the deceptions, gender roles, cattiness, historical fact/fiction, power/war, and so much more. There are things that happen that aren’t fully left explained – as the reader you are allowed your own interpretation as to whether this particular character actually did this or didn’t do that which leads to great discussion and lots of theories. Just a ton of fun for any discussion group.
The ladies and I talked for ages about women’s place in society and how their lives were never their own. But we then had to admit that even men had their roles and places decided for them so no gender was actually free. We also discussed at length how far medicine and sanitation had come in the past few hundred years. This is a novel that will make you thankful everyday for your local pharmacy and indoor plumbing.
Of course, this novel isn’t perfect. Several members had problems with how much Cullen downplayed the Spanish Inquisition. For such a hugely terrible event, the Inquisition was hardly even mentioned. Others thought King Felipe II was also portrayed a little lightly. The novel makes you question whether he’s a good decent man or subtlety cruel when apparently it’s common knowledge he was a douche. Personally, I hated that the book jacket professed the novel to be about Sofi, when really the story focused on the King, Queen, and the Court – Sofi barely even paints. Yes, the novel is told from the first person perspective of Sofi through diary like entries, but they focus almost entirely on the Queen. I wanted more Sofi.
So The Creation of Eve gets the Litwits seal of approval and our highest recommendations for fellow book clubs! It has a fantastic afterword (might have been my favorite part) where Lynn Cullen goes into detail about what was fiction and what was fact. She also details out what happened to the characters after her novel ends which was fun to read. You’ll want to google Sofi’s paintings and other Renaissance art during the reading process – or just visit Italy!
Also, below I’ve posted the trailer for The Great Gatsby being released late this year. It’s caused quite a stir! What do you think?