Review Blog

May 18 2008

I am Rembrandt's daughter by Lynn Cullen

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Bloomsbury, 2008.
(Age 12-15) The painter Rembrandt van Rijn has lost popularity and is living in poverty and disgrace in Amsterdam. Cornelia, the daughter of one of his models, remembers life as it was when her mother was alive and when Titus, his son by Saskia, also lived at home before his marriage into the wealthy merchant class. Abandoned by their patrons and frowned at by the respectable, Cornelia tries to sell paintings and help her irascible old father. She plays in the studio as a child and understands colour and form, but is allowed only to model, never to paint. The fragility of life at that time is clearly shown when the plague sweeps through the city, the poorer areas particularly suffering.
The action moves back and forward in time, allowing the development of a quite complex and unbelievable plot twist. The sounds, sights and smells of life in seventeenth Amsterdam are captured quite vividly in this lively story. The language is in places clumsy and anachronistic but generally works well, and for those unfamiliar with Dutch names there is a character list.
The novel is capitalising on the interest in Dutch painters and has a list of Rembrandt's paintings. It would be particularly enjoyable for readers aged 12-16 years who are interested in Rembrandt.  
Jennifer Hamilton

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