A refreshingly original story that melds historical fiction with a coming-of age narrative, Cullen's novel is a treat for readers who enjoyed Girl with a Pearl Earring.
Seventeenth-century Amsterdam is where we meet Cornelia van Rijn, the daughter of the artist Rembrandt. Cornelia takes care of her driven and tormented father, resentful that he has so little affection for her. But her chores leave her questions unanswered: Why didn't Rembrandt marry her mother, now dead of the plague, instead of sentencing Cornelia to life as an illegitimate child? Why does Rembrandt seem to love her stepbrother, Titus, so much more than her? And why does Neel, her father's pupil, look at her so often?
Cornelia's only escape is through the attentions of Carel, a handsome and wealthy son of a local shipping magnate. Carel, like Cornelia, has his own artistic yearnings and takes an improbable liking to her, which she finds puzzling. But as the story of her life becomes clearer, she learns that appearances can be deceiving.
Rich with detail about the craft of painting, I Am Rembrandt's Daughter delights its readers on many levels -- but don't close the book until you've read the author's note at the end. It's a kind of literary chiaroscuro that illuminates the story, much as Rembrandt's own use of the technique added depth and complexity to his paintings. (Fall 2007 Selection)