I just finished listening to The Passion of Artemisia by Susan Vreeland. Yes, you read right. I said, “listened.” I have discovered the joy of books on tape. I love to read, and when I am doing almost anything else, I wish I could be reading.
With a recorded book, I get the joy of reading while still accomplishing the other things I need to do. While doing housework, even on the job, I can hear a marvelous story and be taken away from the mundane.
This book was read by Gigi Bermingham, who really did a marvelous job. She changed her voice for the different characters and used just the right amount of Italian accent to make it work.
Artemisia, of course, is the first female painter to be admitted to the academy of Florence. Vreeland emphasizes her womanhood with sympathy. She is not a strange martyr, like Joan of Arc. Artemisia is shown to have all the universally female issues to deal with: how to be a mother, daughter, lover and wife.
Her tutor even sexually abuses her, and her father is unsympathetic. This is, unfortunately, a familiar situation for many women even to the modern day.
Artemisia is an artist, above all. Vreeland shows how she struggles to be a great painter and to grapple with large ideas. Galileo shows up, apparently they were friends. His Earth-moving theory and her tradition-shattering career choice are well matched.
Artemisia, as Vreeland portrays her, is very human and very familiar. She triumphs and she fails. But she does not give up on her art; she does not give up her pursuit of truth and beauty.
Vreeland evokes a full range of emotion for her Artemisia. She is passionate, she is angry, she is enraptured, but she is also tired and frustrated. She is very real.
Bermingham speaks for her just perfectly, too. She enunciates carefully and in a feminine way for Artemisia. Her phrasing added to the pleasure of the book.