The Creation of Eve

( 36 )


"Enormously satisfying...I'm grateful to Cullen for the pleasures of such a splendid read." -Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants.

In 1559, a young woman painter flees a scandal involving one of Michelangelo's students, and is taken to the Spanish court, where she becomes the young queen's confidante and lady-in-waiting. Through her keenly trained eye, readers watch a love triangle unfold involving the queen, the king, and his half brother-a ...

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"Enormously satisfying...I'm grateful to Cullen for the pleasures of such a splendid read." -Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants.

In 1559, a young woman painter flees a scandal involving one of Michelangelo's students, and is taken to the Spanish court, where she becomes the young queen's confidante and lady-in-waiting. Through her keenly trained eye, readers watch a love triangle unfold involving the queen, the king, and his half brother-a dangerous gamble that risks the lives of the queen and all those who keep her secrets.

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Editorial Reviews

Eugenia Zukerman
…an intoxicating tale of love, betrayal and redemption…Cullen tackles the contradictions of the Renaissance and captures the dangerous spirit of the Inquisition while handling these vivid characters with prodigious control. The Creation of Eve is a historical romance that teaches as it touches.
—The Washington Post
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cullen's previous books include "I Am Rembrandt's Daughter" and "Moi and Marie Antoinette." With this suspenseful, evocative tapestry of Renaissance life, art and royal skullduggery, the author has made a skillful --- and, with any luck, permanent --- jump into adult fiction.
Atlanta Magazine
Lynn Cullen weaves a glittering tapestry in The Creation of Eve, blending themes of art, gender and politics into a provocative novel that feels surprisingly timely.
Library Journal
The year is 1560; Elizabeth of Valois (1544–68) has just become the third wife of King Felipe of Spain, and the talented female painter Sofonisba Anguissola (1532–1625) has been appointed art instructor to the young queen. In a court filled with all manner of politics, from religious debate to petty jealousies and forbidden love affairs, these two conflicted and often unhappy young women find in each other a much-needed friend and companion. Through the eyes of Sofi, Cullen captivates her readers with the thrill and drama of 16th-century Spain. Hewing closely to historical record, the author fills in enough spaces to make a satisfying story but strategically leaves certain details to the imagination, a trick that has the reader deliciously wishing for just a little bit more. VERDICT Marking a strong adult historical fiction debut for YA author Cullen (I Am Rembrandt's Daughter), this is a good choice for fans of Tracy Chevalier, Sarah Dunant, or Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/09; highlighted in AAP's Librarians' Spring 2010 Sneak Preview.]—Leigh Wright, Bridgewater, NJ
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780594448815
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/23/2010
  • Pages: 392
  • Sales rank: 275,803
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel The Creation of Eve, as many acclaimed books for children. She lives with her husband in Atlanta, where she is at work on her next novel.

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Reading Group Guide


A lush and compelling tale of intrigue and longing, set in the sixteenth-century Spanish court.

The Creation of Eve is a novel based on the true but little-known story of Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance. After a scandal in Michelangelo’s workshop, Sofi flees Italy and joins the Spanish court of King Felipe II to be a lady-in-waiting to his young bride. There she becomes embroiled in a love triangle involving the Queen, the King, and the King’s illegitimate half brother, Don Juan. The Creation of Eve combines art, romance, and history from the Golden Age in Spain in a story that asks the question: Can you ever truly know another person’s heart?


Lynn Cullen is the author of the young adult novel I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, an ALA Best Book of 2008, and several other acclaimed books for children. She lives with her husband in Atlanta.


Q. Your main character, Sofonisba Anguissola, is an actual historical figure. How much do we know about her? How factually based is the story you tell about her?

The Creation Of Eve follows the known facts of her life very closely, as it does for all the other historical figures in the book. What juicy material I had to work from! Here was the daughter of a lowly count from an Italian farming town who became a successful woman painter in what was strictly a man’s world. She was asked to study with Michelangelo—not an artist known for rolling out the welcome mat for students—and then she was invited by Spanish King Felipe (Philip) II, the most powerful ruler in the world, to be a lady-in-waiting to his wife. Incredible!

The facts only get more delicious: When Sofonisba joined the Spanish court, the mature Felipe had just learned of a much younger illegitimate brother who was charismatic, handsome, and lovable—everything Felipe was not. On top of that, this charming brother was the same age as Felipe’s adorable new teenage queen, and of course the two of them immediately hit it off. Worse, Felipe’s own son, the same age as this pair, fell in love with the queen and made no attempt to hide it. The king’s young nephew, who was the king’s ward as punishment for the boy’s father taking up arms against Spain, joined the group of teenagers, stirring the pot. All this comes straight from historical record. Toss in facts like the Queen’s mother was Catherine de Medici, known for her reliance on soothsayers and magic, and here is a story begging to be written. After plumbing sources referencing Spanish court records, legal documents, and the characters’ correspondence, and then poring over Sofonisba’s paintings and drawings, I had all the truth-is-stranger-than-fiction material a novelist could ever desire. I just needed to imagine the connections.

Q. What was it about Sofonisba’s life that made you want to write a book about her?

I started out thinking I was going to write a book about Felipe (Philip) II. Like most people with a little English history under their belt, I mainly knew his name as the king who had led the Spanish Armada. I had always read what a cruel character he was, fighting England and good Queen Elizabeth I, and that he was the terrible despot behind the Spanish Inquisition. I assumed that he deserved his reputation, which has come to be called “The Black Legend”.

Then, while researching another project, I happened to read that he was very close to his daughter, Isabella Clara Eugenia. I also noted that being a remarkably modest and private man, Felipe wouldn’t allow anyone to write his biography. This caught my interest—what if I wrote a story from this beloved daughter’s point of view, having her attempt, out of love and pride, to write his biography? Wouldn’t it be a heartbreaking surprise if, in her research, it slowly dawned on her what a monster her beloved father was?

The surprise was on me. As I researched Felipe, I found that he was a devoted family man who loved learning, music, art, architecture, and pottering around in the garden. He was so fascinated by nature that he wrote a treatise on the diversity of animals; he would grow to hate the traditional Spanish pastime of bullfighting. I found that his reputation as a cruel, possibly insane, tyrant was part of a smear campaign waged 400 years ago by the Dutch and English, people who had a vested interest in making him a villain—they stood to enhance their own power by lessening his. It worked. Centuries later the man is still despised, even by many in his own country. While he committed grave moral errors, such as allowing the Spanish Inquisition to continue under his reign, was he any more bloodthirsty than the other rulers of his time? Even now, it seems radical to suggest that he was no worse, and in some respects he might even have been a little better.

I decided I would write about Felipe in a way that would present both the damaging evidence about his life and also aspects of his good side. I wanted the reader to decide whether Felipe was good or bad or something in between.

When looking around for a narrator for this story cooking in my mind, a striking portrait in a biography on Felipe caught my attention. The artist was Sofonisba Anguissola, a lady in waiting to the Spanish Queen. Once I started researching Sofonisba, I realized that she, too, had a story that needed to be told. Then when I saw her painting of her sisters playing chess (with her nurse looking on, amused, in the background), the deal was cinched. I had to know this talented person whose love for her subjects and passion for her work radiated out of her paintings.

Q. It is difficult to imagine today, at least in Western societies, that women were once regarded entirely as the property of men, whether they were servants or queens. How is this seen in your novel?

Since even in the modern, relatively enlightened US, the right for a woman to vote wasn’t signed into law until 1920, and women are still underrepresented in politics, business, scientific professions, etc., it’s not really a stretch to imagine how in Renaissance Italy and Spain 400 years ago, they were strictly considered as chattel. In the world depicted in The Creation Of Eve, all women, no matter how high born, were entirely subject to the whims of men. From Sofonisba’s peasant nurse, to the Queen of Spain, not one of them is free. The Queen may get to wear beautiful clothing and jewels from head to toe, and she never wants for any material comfort, but she’s forced into a marriage with a man many years her senior who could throw her off at any moment if she doesn’t bear him a son. And Sofonisba, also an educated and relatively privileged woman for that time period, lived in fear that her loss of virginity would be revealed, thus destroying the reputation she had worked so hard to build—and her dear Papa’s reputation as well.

Q. The sixteenth century, when your novel is set, was a time of great political, cultural, and religious upheaval in Europe. What were some of the major events that were taking place?

The biggest catalyst for change during that time was the Reformation. It was so much more than a religious movement—it was a sea change in political power. Until Luther protested about the rampant corruption in the Catholic Church and suggested that the common man should be able to approach God without the assistance of the priesthood, the Pope and the Church had the final say in all decisions affecting everyone in Europe. The Reformation allowed the common man to rise up to challenge the Pope and the rulers who were representatives of the Roman Catholic Church on earth. It was forward thinking of Elizabeth I of England to embrace Protestantism and thus dodge the uprising sweeping around the world. She chose to persecute Catholics instead. On the other hand, Felipe stayed loyal to the Church due to his own religious beliefs, a desire to please his father, and his innate inflexibility—one of his character flaws.

Shock waves from the Reformation even reached the world of art. Because Protestant mobs were destroying churches and the art in them in protest of the Pope’s rule, Catholic church leaders decided to closely examine all art in places of worship for any signs of impropriety. They wanted to remove the excuse the mobs had for smashing art—that it was decadent and unholy, like the rest of the corrupt Church. Michelangelo’s work, in its celebration of the naked male body, came in for sharp criticism.

Meanwhile, an influx of gold and silver from the New World caused strife between the countries trying to grab for it, much like the struggles for oil today. Tension heightened between Felipe and Elizabeth I of England when Elizabeth sanctioned piracy of the Spanish fleets in hope of siphoning off some of this wealth. Seeing that Felipe was becoming preoccupied with England, the ruler of the Ottoman Empire, Suleiman the Magnificent, threatened Spain’s Mediterranean holdings. At this time, too, the Netherlands tried to make its break with Spanish rule.

Q. How did you research this book?

I have a wall full of books at home that I bought as I educated myself on the Spanish court, Renaissance Italy and art, and the culture and natural attributes of Spain. Next came trips to Spain, planned around places my characters had been. In order to experience how the places smelled, looked, and sounded as my characters would have experienced them, I picked my way around piles of mule manure on the sloping hillside farmyard containing the ruins of the once lovely palace of Valsain. I hiked down overgrown pathways along the milky waters of the Rio Tajo in Aranjuez; recorded the sound of bells in Toledo; wandered among the mellow stone piers in the hushed nave of the cathedral at Segovia. I also thought it important to eat Spanish food and to drink the wine—not all research is painful.

In addition, to understand Sofi’s life as an artist, I took a painting class, where I quickly learned I was in way over my head if I thought picking up painting would be a snap. I was fascinated to learn about the many decisions figurative painters must make when composing a picture. Knowing these rules now informs my appreciation of art, and I hope passing on some of these considerations might do the same for my reader. Sadly, though, on a technical level, I never got past correctly shading a pear.

Q. How widely known was Michelangelo’s homosexuality in his own day? What were the attitudes of the time toward it? Was Michelangelo’s sexuality ever used against him?

His homosexuality was well known in the higher circles of Florence and Rome, and periodically his enemies would go to the authorities, accusing him of what was then thought as the most hideous crime against nature. He was saved only by his friendship with the various Popes, who were willing to look the other way as long as he worked on their personal projects, which often included their own tombs. It wasn’t exactly extortion—he was paid handsomely for his work and the popes were happy to contribute to the Michelangelo publicity machine—but he was obliged to spend many years on these projects. But mainly, when it came to his sexuality, Michelangelo’s most unrelenting torturer was himself. His poems berating himself are heartbreaking, though in a moment of self-forgiveness he wrote, “If all our emotions displeased heaven, why would God have created the world?”

Q. Have you always been interested in history?

From my father, an electrical engineer at the phone company by trade, I learned to love history and traveling on a budget. My dad was the Rick Steves of American camping. Every summer we went on three-week camping trips (hotels were too expensive for our family of seven kids and for the amount of traveling Dad wanted to do) that featured the history and nature of the United States. There was always hiking and swimming, but learning was the main event, at least in my mind. I never did learn to swim well but I can tell you where there are good fossils in Ohio and what Lincoln’s boyhood cabin looks like. The rest of the year, trips to the local parks, history museums, and libraries figured into our daily life. I have very fond memories of following Dad on my bike with my sister, going to get our allotment of two books at the local library. It should come as no surprise that I based Sofi’s mild-mannered father on my own gentle dad.

Q. The New World (America) begins to assume great importance in Europe during the time period in which your novel is set, with all sorts of wealth, exotic plants and animals, and new foods, like the tomato, flowing eastward across the Atlantic to Europe. How do we see this in your novel?

I wanted to show how New World foods that we now take for granted on both sides of the Atlantic, such as the potato, the tomato, chile peppers, and corn were just beginning to be studied during Felipe’s reign. Felipe, always greatly interested in nature, commissioned the real-life doctor Francisco Hernández to record and gather specimens in their New World setting. In fact, I considered Francisco Hernández as a love interest for Sofi when I was first writing the book, but I had to look for another candidate when I found out that he was much older than Sofi and married.

The gold flowing across the Atlantic helped replenish Felipe’s coffers at a time when he desperately needed money to finance the wars started by his father’s claims around the world. But the New World gold had an unforeseen bad effect. With the riches being piped in from abroad came a surge in the demand for imported goods. There was no need to manufacture goods for exchange—now ready cash was on hand to buy foreign products. Spain became dependent on imports; manufacturing languished. So when pirates interrupted the flow of gold, which was already beginning to lessen naturally, Spain found itself without a means to pay for the goods it required. Sixty years after Felipe’s reign ended, the Spanish monarchy was so poor they could only afford eggs for dinner. This is not an exaggeration, but a fact. The economy was in a trough so deep it took over 300 years to recover. Now few Americans even know of the great Spanish Empire or Felipe, though his empire rivaled the proportions of ancient Rome—a lesson, perhaps, for our times, of what happens to an economy when a country has too many wars to support and becomes too dependent on imported goods.


  • Were you surprised to learn that Sofonisba Anguissola, a Renaissance woman in a male-dominated culture, was a renowned portrait painter? How much of her fame do you think was attributable to her talent, and how much to other factors?
  • In the novel, we see (to varying degrees) the private lives of a servant, a lady, and a queen. How do their lives differ, and in what ways are their lives defined by their gender or their rank?
  • How might Sofonisba’s life story have changed if she had married Tiberio Calcagni?
  • As stated in the Author’s Note, Michelangelo was attracted to men at a time when homosexuality was a crime against the Church, punishable by death. In what ways does Sofonisba’s attitude toward him change over the course of the novel, in part because of what she learns about his personal life, and in part because of the twists and turns of her own fate?
  • One of the themes in The Creation of Eve is how people make judgments of others and how fallible these judgments can be. The author has stated that she purposely gave her characters both good and bad sides. Did your opinion of any of the characters change over the course of the novel?
  • In her Author’s Note, Lynn Cullen points out how effectively the Dutch and the English manipulated the historical legacy of Felipe II (as well as their own historical reputations). As a result, slander from the 1500s is still accepted as historical fact. Have you seen examples in your own life in which events as reported on the news differed from a scene you actually witnessed?
  • When Elisabeth of Valois was growing up in the French court, titillating questions such as “Which is the greater in love, fulfillment or desire?” were debated. Which of those would you champion?
  • Court intrigue, capable of dooming a queen to death, is a potent force in The Creation of Eve. Certainly, public opinion can affect the lives and careers of public figures today. Are women still more vulnerable than men?
  • The novel poses the question: How well do we really know those closest to us?
    Is it sometimes better not to know them too well?
  • At the end of the book, Sofonisba asks: “Will I ever know why we so often love those whom we cannot possess?” Is what she questions here universal to the human condition?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 9, 2010

    Really enjoyed this book. Hard to believe this is Cullen's first "adult" book, but looking forward to the next one(s)!

    There's something about historical fiction that really allows for fascinating character development; not limited to popular conventional wisdom. The story is real, but the author has the freedom to explore controversial events and persona. The Creation of Eve (CE) was just that sort of captivating book. We have traveled various parts of Europe on family vacations with the typical American fascination with the whole concept of kings, queens and other historical persons. CE fed that intrigue as well as giving us another historical example of a women finding her way through a male dominated society.

    This is not a book I would typically have picked up, but after seeing Sara Gruen's complementary comments I tracked down an advanced copy, and uncharacteristically read the entire book in just a couple of sittings. The character development is really well done, and suspect it's only a matter of time until we see it in movie form(..can Julia Roberts paint?).

    The use of Sofonisba's journal was a creative way to account for the long time span, and reinforcing a believability of the character and events. I look forward to our next vacation in Spain...reading The Creation of Eve has aroused my curiosity for the history, its peoples and places.

    I really appreciated Cullen's "Author's Notes!" What a nice way to fill us in on the history and ongoing debates that she and other historians carry on even to this day.

    I might also suggest a family tree, of the characters, be included as an appendix for keeping track of half brother, step son's, etc for those of us that are somewhat memory challenged.

    6 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 10, 2010

    Sixteenth Century Characters Tangibly Tantalizing in "Creation of Eve"

    How could anyone resist a book that invites them into its pages with the first line, "In the time it takes to pluck a hen, I have ruined myself?" Certainly not me. And once into the deliciously animated story of Sophonisba Anguissola, I was completely engrossed. Sophi was an accomplished Renaissance painter who seemed to be accidentally born during a time when it was considered an anomaly for women to be anything but nuns or wives. Discovering how she evolved from a simple Italian girl to becoming a member of the Spanish court was only part of the allure. The descriptions of the thought processes around her painting, her interactions with her mentor, Michelangelo, and as companion to the young queen of Spain make it easy to forget that the author wasn't actually there interviewing each of the multidimensional characters that come to life in the pages of the book. If when I finish a book, I don't want to let the characters go and want to delve into more of the facts of their lives, I know it's a great book. When I finished this book, and sadly had no more pages to turn, I did just that.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 26, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this

    I've seen Michelangelo's work, but didn't know much about him personally. I had never heard of Sofonisba Anguissola, so I thought this would be an interesting read and it was. I just finished CW Gortner's "Confessions Of Catherine de Medici" and I didn't realize that this book was about Catherine's daughter, Elisabeth after she weds King Philip and joins the Spanish court. Sofonisba, joins this court as Elisabeth's paint tudor. It was a good follow up to "Confessions". I enjoy authors who bring less famous people to light. She did her homework on this one. After reading, I of course had to google and see Sofi's work. The author was right on. It's interesting how different authors bring the same character to a different light. In "Confessions" Elisabeth came off as a lady who couldn't think for herself. In this book, I felt like I was reading about Henry Tudor's 5th wife, the immature "Katharine Howard." This wasn't a page turner, but I enjoyed this book. Now I am ready to make a trip to the Getty Museum, to see some 16th century art work.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A Truly Excellent Read - a Journey into the Hearts and Minds of 16th Century Notables

    Lynn Cullen shows a great depth of research and creativity combined in presenting her story of an inflammable historical period of the 16th Century as witnessed through the eyes of the first noted female artist Sofonisba Anguissola, an Italian painter who studied briefly under Michelangelo before being summoned to service in the Spanish court. Realism and poignant intimacy are achieved through the first-person journal entries, in which the entire book is comprised, of the young artist as she who is herself caught up in the allures of the human heart while witnessing those of the people she serves. This is a compelling story and is remarkable in its detail, most realistically and assuredly achieved through the eyes of a very talented and soulful artist. I did not read anything about this book or its author before jumping into it as I did not want to set up any premises, my intention solely being to be enwrapped in an enthralling story, and it was only at the end that I saw how Ms. Cullen's credible research had been so disarmingly and truthfully portrayed. The cover and title first attracted me, and Sara Gruen's testimonial secured my interest.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Best Book I've Read In Years!!

    This is just the book I've been waiting for! Written from the viewpiont of painter Sofonisba Anguissola, in the Spanish court of Phillip II, this book weaves a compelling story of romance, loyalty, passion, and betrayal. Cullen pays painstaking attention to detail and historical accuracy to paint a vivid picture of life in the Spanish court - the scenes played out just like a movie in my head! It was the perfect escape during my four month old's naptime.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    All-time favorite!

    Who is Lynn Cullen? I want more!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good Historical Fiction

    Sofonisba Anguissola was that rarity in the Renaissance - a female painter who had studied with Michaelangelo. Many of her paintings survive today - her portraits are exceptional. Though she lived to age 93, this novel covers the few years in her life that she was a lady-in-waiting in the Spanish court of Philip II. During this period "Sofi" gets caught in the middle of a turbulent relationship between the young Queen Elisabeth and the King's brother Juan. Mostly poor Sofi just wants to paint, but her opportunities are limited by the stifling environment of the court. Author Lynn Cullen lacks the you-are-there descriptive powers of Karleen Koen (Dark Angels, Before Versailles) and her chapters are long on dialogue, much of it on the mundane side. Still, her portrayal of the perils of the Spanish court at the time of the Inquisition is excellent. And the book made me want to learn more about Sofonisba Anguissola.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2010

    The Creation of Eve

    A beautifully written story about a female artist, Sofonisba Anguissola in the mid 1500 when women were not respected much at all, especially for their talent. At that time, a woman was not allowed to paint the naked body. Her amazing artistic talent offers her a chance to study with the great Michelangelo in Rome. After her return back to her home town in Italy, she is invited by the King of Spain to be a lady in waiting for his young bride. Sofi gladly accepts this great honor but learns soon enough that life is not so easy being a queen.

    After reading the book, I did some research about Sofonisba and other characters in the story and discovered that the true story is very close to it.

    I really enjoyed the book but wished there was a little more story.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer


    There is little reading more intriguing than well done historical fiction. Lynn Cullen raises this genre to new heights with her intriguing, richly visualized THE CREATION OF EVE. Based on the life of the first woman painter to achieve any degree of recognition during the Renaissance, Sofonisba Anguissola, the author transports us to the 16th century courts of Spain and France, each alive with rankling jealousies, harbored dreams, and clever machinations.

    As a child of 7 Sofonisba was inspired by a picture of the Madonna and Child in a local church. Borrowing her printer father's quill and paper she drew her own picture. He was so impressed by her talent that he ignored the disdainful laughter of their Cremona neighbors, "A girl taking up a man's craft, and such a dirty one at that. Who is going to marry her now?" In time he chose some of her work and sent it to the Maestro, Michelangelo, who invited her to come to Rome to study. An impossibility for a girl in that day and time, yet it happened to Sofonisba who would become a portraitist because women were not allowed o study "from the nude or from the dissection of a cadaver."

    At Michelangelo's studio she met and fell in love with a young sculptor, Tiberio Calcagni. There is a brief moment of coupling, which Sofi fears might ruin not only herself but Tiberio and bring shame to her beloved father. So, when she is invited by the mightiest of rulers, King Philip II of Spain, to teach his 13-year-old wife, Queen Elisabeth, painting and serve as her lady-in-waiting Sofi does not hesitate.

    Yet, she is ill prepared for what she finds in the grand palaces of Toledo, Madrid, and Segovia - the animus of the King's sister and a fault-finding condessa who would like nothing better than to see the Queen lose favor. Elisabeth, the daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici, is a beauty but rash, and at her then tender age unable to bear children for the King. Philip, a widower and much older than his Queen, wants her total devotion. Add to this mix Don Juan, the king's handsome younger brother, and Don Carlos, his frail, mentally deficient son, both of whom covet Elisabeth.

    Thus, while strife abounds at court there are tensions without - in Rome Michelangelo is being investigated by the Inquisition of the Catholic Church for the supposed immorality of his paintings in the Sistine Chapel and his rumored homosexuality. (The Grand Inquisitor's punishments are horrific). Plus, the Protestant Reformation is feared by both Philip and Catherine of France who seeks to wed another daughter to Don Carlos in hopes of even stronger ties between their two countries.

    In the midst of all of this Sofi longs for word from Tiberio, attempts to ameliorate the King's sister and the condessa, and keep an ever watchful eye on Elizabeth whom she fears may act impetuously.

    With THE CREATION OF EVE Cullen has used history and prodigious research to craft an unforgettable epic, totally absorbing, richly atmospheric. She sensitively portrays the status of women at that time, realistically paints the staggering wealth enjoyed by some as opposed to the deprivation of many, while telling a fascinating story. Somehow Cullen allows us to move in the same circles as Sofi, enjoying feast days , moving among the greats of the art world - Michelangelo, DaVinci, trembling at the thought of the Inquisition, and seeing the onset of the Reformation. An unforgettable pleasure!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A superb historical fiction tale

    In 1560 sixteen years old Elizabeth of Valois becomes the third wife of King Felipe of Spain. She was a student of Michelangelo and her being a woman; so King Felipe selects female artist Sofonisba "Sofi" Anguissola to mentor the new queen on painting. Both feel isolated in the backstabbing royal court where squabble is the norm and affairs persistent. The painter and the royal forge a friendship that goes way beyond teacher and pupil as each realizes they can rely on the other to have their back.

    Told mostly through the perspective of the renaissance artist, The Creation of Eve is a superb historical fiction that reads more like an autobiography of the sixteenth century artist. The Spanish court of King Felipe is a deathtrap for the naive as the queen and the painter quickly learn. That insidious atmosphere of two outsiders is a prime impetus for each to turn to one another in friendship. From the First Notebook entry in 1559, this fine tale contains a strong eye on the era that sub-genre readers will relish The Creation of Eve.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 26, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    A little slow, but worth the effort

    It took a bit of time and effort for my interest for this book to develop (which is why I didn't rate this a 4 or 5), but once things began to pick up (a little past the halfway point) I found myself enjoying the story significantly more. The history is very interesting, and the author did a very good job in mixing fact with fiction. I was surprised to discover how many of the details in the story were based on history. I learned a great deal, and enjoyed the story once I got over what (in my opinion) was a slow beginning.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013



    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 13, 2010

    Astonishingly good, gorgeous historical novel!

    I loved this novel! I read all the historical fiction I can - Philippa Gregory, Sarah Dunant, Tracy Chevalier, and this is on a par with the best of those authors' works. It's also a subject that I found fascinating -an Italian Renaissance painter in the Spanish court. I highly recommend this for anyone who reads those other authors. Lynn Cullen is terrific - a great find. You won't be disappointed.

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  • Posted May 12, 2010

    Addicting historical novel...

    I love historical fiction and this novel is one of the greatest. Think in the same vein as Phillipa Gregory or Allison Weir. I'm not yet through the book, though only a few chapters left, and I do not want it to end. Hope to hear more from this author in this fashion!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2010


    It simply amazes me that this is a debut novel!!! It is a capitavating story, the characters are rich and the story never stops holding your attention. ONE GORGEOUS READ!!! DO not miss out on this book. Its a curl up and get compfy book, so make sure you have time to read it all in a couple of sittings. JUST BEAUTIFUL!!!

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  • Posted January 27, 2010

    Excellent historical fiction!

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Creation of Eve. In fact, I could not put it down and finished it in one sitting on Sunday afternoon. I love historical fiction. I have read fiction and non-fiction works about the Renaissance and Michelangelo and I found the story of Sofonisba Anguissola to be fascinating (never mind the royal intrigue!).

    Lynn Cullen's writing was perfect. Her characters were so vivid and her descriptions of the times and places were wonderful. I felt like I was part of the story. I especially appreciated her ability to weave fact and fiction; and I am anxious to read more about this period as well as to find more information about Sofonisba.

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  • Posted January 20, 2010

    Wow - historical fiction at its best!

    I loved this book. A friend who knows I love historical fiction gave me an advance copy. I couldn't put it down. I'd never heard of this extraordinary Renaissance painter, Sofonisba, and was totally absorbed in this story about her life in Italy with Michaelangelo and then her friendship with the Queen of Spain. There are appealing male characters, too, especially the King of Spain, who turns out to really surprise the reader. I wholeheartedly recommend THE CREATION OF EVE to anyone who loves historical fiction, a romantic story, and fascinating true stories (the author based a lot of the story on meticulous research!).

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    Posted February 19, 2011

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    Posted December 15, 2013

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    Posted April 13, 2011

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