cover image A Light of Her Own

A Light of Her Own

Carrie Callaghan. Amberjack, $24.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-944995-89-8

Set in 1633 Holland, Callaghan’s riveting debut convincingly brings to life determined painter Judith Leyster, the first woman to attain master status in the cutthroat profession. At 23, Judith is extremely talented, yet she remains an apprentice longer than her male counterparts due to gender bias. For many years, Judith lives with her teacher, acclaimed painter Frans de Grebber, and his daughter, Maria, Judith’s sole friend. Desperate for money for her own studio, Judith becomes involved in a scheme with a Frenchman named Lachine to quietly sell one of her paintings without the knowledge of the Guild. After receiving the coveted master status, Judith takes on young male pupils in her workshop and struggles to house and feed them, along with buying necessary equipment—such as linseed oil, which mysteriously becomes scarce. Judith’s story runs alongside Maria’s own fascinating story line: she’s secretly a devout Catholic in a country demanding Reformed Church membership; longing to atone for her sins, she embarks on a journey to track down a lost religious artifact for her father. Callaghan skillfully balances both the intricacies of the 17th-century Dutch art world and the religious persecution of the time, making this a dextrously woven and engrossing historical novel. (Nov.)