The Creation of Eve

Written by Lynn Cullen
Review by Troy Reed

The Creation of Eve is Cullen’s first foray into adult fiction, and it is quite a promising beginning. The story starts in Italy in the fall of 1560 when Sofonisba Anguissola, the first renowned female artist of the Renaissance, is studying with the Master Michelangelo. After a scandal at his studio between herself and another student, Sofonisba returns home. At the request of King Philip II of Spain, Sofonisba then travels to the Spanish court to become the art teacher of his new wife, the fourteen-year-old Elisabeth de Valois, daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici.

As time goes on, and Sofonisba learns her way around the Spanish court, Elisabeth and Sofonisba form a friendship. As a lady-in-waiting, Sofonisba is constantly with the queen and notices her growing unhappiness and increasingly reckless behavior. She witnesses the relationship that forms between Elisabeth and the king’s illegitimate half-brother, Don Juan. Each woman finds herself torn between two worlds and loving someone that she cannot have.

What makes this tale so captivating is Cullen’s way of bringing her characters to life. She starts out each chapter with quotations and advice on painting, love, and herbal remedies that Sofi has recorded in her sketchbooks, giving the novel a personal feel. Full of passion and desire for love and for her art, Sofi is a character who will be remembered. The portrayal of the court during the Golden Age of Spain is compelling as the controversies and power struggles between European countries are revealed through the eyes of the Spanish. Cullen has crafted a remarkable story about a talented, real woman that history almost forgot.