Audiobook Review: The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

Title: The Passion of Artemisia
Author: Susan Vreeland
Genre: Historical fiction
Publisher: Penguin
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Audiobook from my personal library
Audiobook reader: Gigi Bermingham
First line: My father walked beside me to give me courage, his palm touching gently the back laces of my bodice.

The Passion of Artemisia is a must-read for any lover of historical fiction, art history, women’s fiction, and all of the above.

Artemisia Gentileschi was a painter of the early Baroque style. She lived in the early 1600s, and her art was greatly influenced by Caravaggio. Her father recognized her talent as a teenager, and hired another artist, Agostino Tassi, to teach her. Tassi raped her, and when the charge was brought to the church court, Artemisia was tortured to verify the truth of her accusation. This experience, and how it changed her relationship with her father, are central to the story that Vreeland tells.

Vreeland takes a few minor liberties with Artemisia’s narrative, but the major points of her story are intact. The author goes far beyond simply presenting a history of the artist, though, and uses Artemisia’s story to illustrate the conflict between being a woman and having a vocation, a passion. Artemisia continually feels the struggle between being a wife and mother and giving herself over to her art.

The descriptions of Italy, the palaces, the art – Vreeland knows how to write just enough details to help you see and experience the place and time of the story. The description never bogs down the story, which moves along, each stage of Artemisia’s life centered around a city and her art. One of the most amazing things about listening to this audiobook is being able to view the works of art mentioned at Wikipedia.

Audio notes: Vreeland’s masterful writing is served well by the reader, Gigi Bermingham.

This is a re-post of a review I wrote a couple of years ago.

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25 Responses to Audiobook Review: The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland

  1. Misha Mathew says:

    I have all of Susan Vreeland’s books on my wishlist. Thanks so much for the review! I needed the motivation to read her books 🙂
    I am excited about her new book – Clara and Mr Tiffany.

  2. Marg
    Twitter: MargReads
    says:

    I have enjoyed a number of Vreeland’s books, but not this one yet! Will have to chase it up.

  3. Rebecca Rasmussen
    Twitter: thebirdsistersgmail.com
    says:

    This one is one my wish list — and I can’t wait to look up pictures. Great idea!

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Rebecca – one of the main reasons I love reading novels about art history!

  4. Beth Hoffman says:

    Oh, Carrie, you just gave me the perfect idea for my girlfriend’s birthday present. She will love this. Terrific review!

  5. Vasilly
    Twitter: Vasilly
    says:

    I always wanted to read more books about Artemisia. I love her artwork. I’ll definitely add this to my TBR pile.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      V – great not just for the art history but the women’s issues. So good.

  6. Kim
    Twitter: BookstoreK
    says:

    This sounds like a terrific audio book and we’re looking for a new one right now

  7. Chelsea says:

    Great review! I’ve been considering giving this one a try and I think this has been the push I needed!

  8. Kathleen says:

    I have such a hard time staying focused on audio books so not sure if this is the best one for me to try. I would definitely try this one in print though.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Kathleen – if you want to try audiobooks that are easier to focus on, go for something light and humorous – like the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich.

  9. I read this fantastic book some years ago! I could hardly put it down once I started it. Artemisia was quite a remarkable woman. I’m about due for a reread and I bet this is great on audiobook! Also, I recommend http://www.artemisia-gentileschi.com for anyone who is unfamiliar with Artemisia Gentileschi or her masterpieces,.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Annie – thanks so much for the link – I’m clicking over to check it out!

  10. Beth F
    Twitter: BethFishReads
    says:

    I’m not sure if I’ve read or listened to this –but I like Vreeland. And I too like to track down the pictures when I’m listening.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Candace – it always makes me think about how much my reading has changed since the internet – much more interactive – easier to seek out related material.

  11. Melissa
    Twitter: avidreader12
    says:

    I just read Girl in Hyacinth Blue last year and really enjoyed it. I’ll have to check this one out.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Melissa – Girl in Hyacinth Blue has been on my to-read list forever – I need to find time for it!

  12. For the truths behind the legends of Artemisia’s provocative work and dramatic life, check out the new documentary film “a woman like that”

    http://www.awomanlikethatfilm.com/

    Carol Gilligan calls it “A stunning film” and others say it is “Personal, moving, smart witty and engaging.”

    Coming to colleges and museums around the country, and on DVD later this year

  13. Coffee and a Book Chick
    Twitter: coffeebookchick
    says:

    Hi, Carrie – Just a quick update that I listened to this one recently and posted my review today to it. I did include a link in the post as a big thanks to you for your review which put this on my radar 🙂 This is the first audio book that I’ve listened to that I actually like, and this has been no small feat for me to achieve!

    Thanks again – here is the link to my review: Coffee and a Book Chick: The Passion of Artemisia, by Susan Vreeland (Audio Review)

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Coffee & Book Chick – I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I’m clicking over to read your review. 🙂