Carrie Callaghan follows the intertwined journeys of two women in her debut novel,
A Light of Her Own. As a young artist in 17th-century Holland, Judith Leyster struggles to make a living and earn the professional respect she deserves. She's gained valuable skills during her apprenticeship to Haarlem painter Frans de Grebber, and a close friend in his daughter, Maria. But Judith has her sights set higher: she wants to open her own workshop, train apprentices and win a place in the city's powerful guild of painters, all men. Maria, though she also wants to paint, is preoccupied with questions relating to her Catholic faith: What does God want of her and what sacrifices will he require?
Like her protagonists with their paintings, Callaghan renders her subjects in rich detail, giving readers a glimpse into the world of painters' workshops, smudged with freshly ground pigments and smelling of linseed oil. The politics of the painters' guild and the women's internal challenges are also vividly drawn. While Judith burns with ambition, she struggles to make ends meet, help her ne'er-do-well brother, Abraham, and fight the sexism and corruption displayed by her male colleagues. Maria, desperate for some higher purpose, throws herself into a quest to retrieve a saint's relic. The plot meanders for a bit until Maria's return, but Callaghan brings the characters together to uncover a conspiracy and mend their relationship. Callaghan's novel is as compelling as one of Judith's paintings, a well-crafted blend of light and shadow.
Discover: Carrie Callaghan's debut novel vividly renders the artistic journeys of two young female painters in 17th-century Haarlem, in Holland.
Shelf-Awareness - Katie Noah Gibson
" A Light of Her Ownis a beautifully crafted story set in seventeenth-century Holland, in which two women navigate the law, destiny, and their unstoppable ambition... Sensory details evoke the light, the feel, and the smell of the setting... a riveting fictionalized account of Judith Leyster." Foreword Reviews
"Against the backdrop of 1630s Holland, where women have little power and religion is strictly regulated, Callaghan’s debut shines a light on the friendship between two artists... Fans of Tracy Chevalier’s
Girl with a Pearl Earring(2000) will enjoy this darker, grittier peek into the history of Dutch art and the struggles of women within that world." Booklist
"A Light of Her Own,as a portrait of two brave and ambitious Dutch women painters, and a glimpse into17th century life in Holland, is recommended to all fans of historical fiction." New York Journal of Books
New York Journal of Books
A Light of Her Own follows two women as they seek space, respect and professional opportunity in a culture that allows them very little of it. Impeccably researched and vibrantly told, Carrie Callaghan's debut paints a picture worthy of Judith herself."
bestselling author of The Immortalists Chloe Benjamin
“. . . Vividly rendered, Judith’s story is one of loyalty, independence, and finding her place in a world dominated by male artists like Rembrandt and Molenaer . . . I feel fortunate to have met Judith Leyster through Carrie Callaghan’s well-crafted words.” Jenni L. Walsh, author of
Side by Side: A Novel of Bonnie and Clyde
“Colorful and absorbing, Callaghan paints a lively portrait of seventeenth century Dutch life in
A Light of Her Own, and the struggles female artists endured to make names for themselves. After reading, I found myself eager to book my next trip to the Netherlands!” Heather Webb, author of Rodin’s Lover
“A vivid, ambitious novel about art and female friendship. With evocative detail, Callaghan transports us to 17th-century Holland and the early lives of Judith Leysterwho strives to be the first woman admitted to the elite Haarlem Painters Guildand her friend and fellow artist, Maria, who has great talent but cannot match Judith’s raw ambition. A Light of Her Ownis engaging, heartfelt, and brimming with color and light.” Frances de Pontes Peebles, author of The Seamstressand The Air You Breathe
Frances de Pontes Peebles
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.)
"Featured in BookBub's list "13 New Novels to Read for Women's History Month" —https://www.bookbub.com/blog/books-for-womens-history-month-editorial-blurbs
Interview: In conversation with author Mieke Eerkens — The Refresh, http://www.therefresh.co/ Interview on the research, writing, and publishing process — The Washington Independent Review of Books, http://www.washingtonindependentreviewofbooks.com/