Blog Tour/Book Review: A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan

I’m delighted to be hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for A Light of Her Own by Carrie Callaghan.  My grateful thanks to Amy at Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for inviting me to participate in the tour.

Visit the tour page to see the other great book bloggers taking part in the tour and links to their reviews and Q&As with the author. For residents of the US, there’s a giveaway with a chance to win one of two signed hardcover copies of A Light of Her Own.  Enter via the tour page where you can also find the terms and conditions of the giveaway.


A Light of Her OwnAbout the Book

In Holland 1633, a woman’s ambition has no place.

Judith is a painter, dodging the law and whispers of murder to try to become the first woman admitted to the Haarlem painters guild. Maria is a Catholic in a country where the faith is banned, hoping to absolve her sins by recovering a lost saint’s relic.

Both women’s destinies will be shaped by their ambitions, running counter to the city’s most powerful men, whose own plans spell disaster. A vivid portrait of a remarkable artist, A Light of Her Own is a richly-woven story of grit against the backdrop of Rembrandt and an uncompromising religion.

Format: Hardcover (320 pp.)    Publisher: Amberjack Publishing
Published: 13th November 2018   Genre: Historical Fiction

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk  ǀ  Amazon.com  | Indiebound
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find A Light of Her Own on Goodreads


My Review

I came to this book expecting it to focus mainly on the story of Judith and her struggle to be accepted by the male-dominated Guilds who governed the art world of the time.   I certainly got this and found her quest for independence and her determination to make the most of her artistic talent quite inspiring.  The book also gave me a fascinating insight into the operation of the art market at the time: the power of the Guilds to control the activities of artists, such as setting up a workshop, employing apprentices and even selling completed works.

The reader is left in no doubt how central the act of creating art is to Judith’s existence: ‘Every time she painted, she fell a little in love with her subject, snared by the crevices and shadows and twitches that made the person. Painting meant focusing on the details, much like love.  So each of her paintings became, in a way, an act of adoration.’  I really liked the way the author managed to convey Judith’s painterly eye for detail and composition, even as she goes about her daily tasks.  To Judith, everything and everyone is a potential subject. ‘Judith looked over at Freija Woutersooz. […] As she spoke, her mouth was tremendously expressive, twitching and curling, but the rest of her expression was calm.  There was something about the dichotomy that made Judith shiver.  She had no idea how she would paint that woman.’   Judith even manages to diffuse a potentially hostile situation at one point through artistic means!

Alongside Judith’s story, the reader witnesses the experiences of her friend, Maria (although it’s speculation on the author’s part that they ever met in real life).  Maria is also a talented painter but she is consumed by a sense of guilt about what she feels is her own sinful nature.  It is this, rather than prejudice, that prevents Maria from making the most of her talent and in fact leads her to take a course of action which will endanger herself and, ultimately, present her friend Judith with a difficult moral choice.   In addition, the author chooses to introduce a mystery element to the narrative, involving a sinister character and suggestions of corruption in high places…and maybe something worse.

Personally, I found Judith’s story sufficiently interesting without the need for the other story lines.    I also believe a glossary (there wasn’t one in my advance reading copy) would be a useful addition to the book in order to explain some of the Dutch words used such as references to currency and measurements.

A Light of Her Own is an engaging story based on the life of a remarkable woman, Judith Leyster, who sought to challenge the social norms and prejudices of the time in order to fulfil her talent for painting.  As the author admits in the Historical Notes section, there is limited contemporary documentation about Judith’s life so much of the book is necessarily a work of  imagination on her part.  I’ll admit that I had never heard of Judith Leyster before reading this book however, thanks to the author, I now know of Judith’s existence and her achievements. A Light of Her Own helps ensure that Judith’s life is no longer hidden in the darkness.

I received a advance reading copy courtesy of publishers, Amberjack Publishing, NetGalley and Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours.

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Try something similar…The Optickal Illusion by Rachel Halliburton (read my review here)


03_Carrie CallaghanAbout the Author

Carrie Callaghan is a writer living in Maryland with her spouse, two young children, and two ridiculous cats. Her short fiction has appeared in Weave Magazine, The MacGuffin, Silk Road, Floodwall, and elsewhere. Carrie is also an editor and contributor with the Washington Independent Review of Books. She has a Master’s of Arts in International Affairs from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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