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April 19, 2010

Some thoughts on 'The Creation of Eve' by Lynn Cullen

As an early reviewer, I received ‘The Creation of Eve’ a historical novel by Lynn Cullen, based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. Sofonisba studied under Michelangelo and was asked by the King of Spain (Felipe) to become part of the Queen’s (Elisabeth) court. Through Sofi’s eyes (and Lynn’s impeccable writing) we are transported to the Spanish court with all its intrigue, multi-layered relationships and rules. Another key theme of the novel is the treatment and place of women during this time period.

Through Sofi’s eyes, we are able to gain access to the interior life of the third wife of Felipe: the young, Elisabeth. At fourteen years old, she is expected to satisfy the King and produce an heir, all as part of deal for peace between France and Spain. The young Queen Elisabeth wants desperately to please her mother (Catherine de Medici) and the women of the Spanish court, but her youth, naïveté and impulsive nature set her on a collision course with the King.

Lynn Cullen’s novel is well researched and written. She has an appreciation and understanding of painters and painting techniques. I could picture many of the scenes described as vignettes in an exhibition. Sofi is the perfect portrait artist, she remains in the background, allowing her main subject, the Queen, and court life, to come into clear focus.

If you enjoy historical fiction and want to learn more about the Spanish Court during this time period, I highly recommend The Creation of Eve.

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