When I opened Goodreads this morning, someone had brought up this book which is one I enjoyed very much. I only came across by chance and ordered it, and it turned out to be an excellent read, both the general concept of the trilogy, and the story itself. The trilogy, by the way, is the Louise Trilogy. While I still haven’t got my hands on the remaining two books, I do want to. In the meanwhile, here is the review I wrote when I read this one back in 2017. So far as I remember, I haven’t shared it on the blog before, but it has been on Goodreads. (I haven’t changed or added anything except the little bit about books 2 and 3.)
This was a book I came across because it was on sale online and when I looked into the description, I liked the idea of the series, the story of a young girl having her portrait painted, and then stories of others who own/have that portrait in the centuries that follow [the second is set amidst the turbulent French Revolution, and the third in the first and second World Wars]. This (Book 1) tells the story of 16-year-old Louise Eeden, daughter of a master potter in Delft known for the beauty of his pieces. Her father is having her portrait painted by Master Haitnik. Rumours abound in town of her impending marriage to Reynier DeVries, son of the largest pottery business, who she sees as a friend of sorts, a childhood companion but nothing more. But the marriage also means a merger of the two businesses giving her father the chance to concentrate on the more intricate work he loves instead of the tiles and windmills that bring in the bread. Louise is torn over what she should do. The process of her portrait brings her in closer contact with Master Haitnik and his family and also with his gangly apprentice Pieter, who Louise begins to form a friendship with, but what will that mean for her, her future, and her family, and indeed for Pieter?
This may sound like a simple romance but it is so so much more. As Louise is having her portrait painted, of course the book takes one into the world of art, of painting, its processes, paint-making, how paintings were planned, executed, and how artists view the things they paint. I really enjoyed this part particularly the visualisation of the subject and how what the artist captures is really the spirit, the soul, of the subject, not its form, and must view its form contrary to reason. But this is not all, the book also delves into questions of philosophy, science, rationality, religion, and at one level people themselves, of relationships, love, friendships, of trust and deceit, and even hate. Our young heroine is full of spunk and fun, and while she has a scientific temperament, she finds herself changing her own outlook as the story proceeds, questioning everything, and having to face up to her own prejudices and fears.
I enjoyed the descriptions, sense of place, the questions it delved into, and the historical figures we “meet”, Rembrandt and Spinoza among them. The end of the book, I wasn’t quite sure I liked though it is based on a historical event, and I can see why it may not have been any other way. Overall a very good read. Not sure why it’s classified as a “children’s book”, though. Four and a half stars.
Have you read this one or any of the others in this series? How did you like it/them? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!