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Disobedient by Elizabeth Fremantle : a review

I’m delighted to be sharing my thoughts about Disobedient by Elizabeth Fremantle.

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book cover for Disobedient by Elizabeth Fremantle

Disobedient by Elizabeth Fremantle

  • Category : Historical Fiction
  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Michael Joseph (27 July 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Hardcover ‏ : ‎ 368 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0241583047
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0241583043
  • Amazon | Waterstones | Goodreads

Disobedient Summary

Rome 1611.

A jewel-bright place of change, with sumptuous new palaces and lavish wealth on display. A city where women are seen but not heard.

Artemisia Gentileschi dreams of becoming a great artist. Motherless, she grows up among a family of painters – men and boys. She knows she is more talented than her brothers, but she cannot choose her own future. She wants to experience the world, but she belongs to her father and will belong to a husband.

As Artemisia patiently goes from lesson to lesson, perfecting her craft, she also paints in private, recreating the women who inspire her, away from her father’s eyes.

Until a mysterious tutor enters her life. Tassi is a dashing figure, handsome and worldly, and for a moment he represents everything that a life of freedom might offer. But then the unthinkable happens.

In the eyes of her family, Artemisia should accept her fate. In the eyes of the law, she is the villain.

But Artemisia is a survivor. And this is her story to tell.

Disobedient Review

I do enjoy a story that dusts off an important female figure from history to shine the light in our contemporary world.  It’s such a skill to be able to take facts from history and weave them through fiction to bring that time to life. 

Artemesia Gentileschi (an Italian Baroque painter considered to be one of the most accomplished seventeenth-century artists) is a woman who learns from an early age how to stand up to her manipulative father.  She doesn’t let societies expectations of a woman’s place in the hierarchy hold her back or determine what should be revealed or concealed in a painting.  I see her as an advocate for the truth and steadfast in her beliefs and passions.  Role model for women of today?  Yes!  On many levels …

At times I felt for Orazio (her father), trying to keep the family reputation intact so that his commissions didn’t dry up.  Still grieving, I saw him as lost in a world that was moving on without him.  However, he really did make me angry with the decisions he made and his other issues!  I had to keep reminding myself of the time this family was alive and the boundaries they had to live within. It couldn’t have been easy trying to discipline such a free spirit as Artemesia!

Zita, Francesco, Piero, Giovanni and Porzia are important people around Artemesia and all have a role to play.  Tassi’s character is brilliantly portrayed, what a chameleon!  Not everyone can see below the surface.

The scene at the Tor di Nona is so powerful.  This author doesn’t hold back.  It’s graphic and multi-layered.  And had me crying, not just emotionally about what happens but feeling helpless about the injustice too!

I haven’t experienced an artist’s studio but feel as if I have now – the smells, the assistant, the sitter.   Light and shade. Everything feels very real.

Not only does Elizabeth Fremantle’s Disobedience give flesh and bones to Artemesia and her family but her writing pulls you into the era to experience life too.  This story is outstanding.

About the Author

Elizabeth Fremantle is the critically acclaimed author of four Tudor historical novels: Queen’s Gambit (soon to be the feature film, Firebrand), Sisters of TreasonWatch the Lady and The Girl in the Glass Tower. As E.C. Fremantle she has written two gripping historical thrillers: The Poison Bed and The Honey and the Sting. She lives in London.

Twitter @LizFremantle

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