I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
September/October 2008

By Lynn Cullen, Reviewed by Stephanie Murphy

I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter book cover

I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter, by Lynn Cullen;
Bloomsbury Children’s Books: New York,
2007; $16.95

How many of you know who Shakespeare or Beethoven were? Many of you, probably, but how many of you know who Rembrandt was? I know who Shakespeare and Beethoven were, but I had no idea who Rembrandt was until I read the book, I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter. This book is not told through the eyes of Rembrandt, but through the eyes of his daughter, Cornelia.

It is a wonderful book filled with romance and mystery that is based on real characters. Cornelia has always felt ashamed of her father, Rembrandt, or vader as they say in Dutch. She is ashamed because Rembrandt paints with rough brushstrokes that can be seen, unlike the other painters who paint with smooth, hardly visible brushstrokes. It is because of this style of painting that Rembrandt, her brother, Titus, and Cornelia have to move from their big house to a small house. The only reason they survive is because of Neel, the very quiet student who pays to take classes with Rembrandt. Cornelia doesn’t give much attention to boring Neel, and she doesn’t realize how many times she might have broken his heart.

Cornelia has always wanted to learn how to paint, but Rembrandt has never offered to teach her. I can relate to this because, like Cornelia, I have always loved to paint, and I am always eager to learn new techniques with the brush. For Cornelia, there has always been a great emotional distance from her vader, Rembrandt, so she tries to find a companion for herself, such as the gold-mustache-man. When he is no longer a suitable companion because he doesn’t come to their house anymore, she finds a sweet boy named Carel. Cornelia falls head-over-heals in love with him. Her life crashes down when unanswered questions about her past become known. Also, what happens when Titus comes down with the plague that kills her mother along with many others?

I liked this book not only because it had an outstanding ending, but it also has many important themes and conflicts, such as the difference between rich and poor. Cornelia has been ashamed of her status in her community. Some see her as the poor mad painter’s daughter, and she soon realizes that being rich is not always as good as people think. I also really enjoyed this book because of the different times that the book was set in. One time period occurs in the present when Cornelia is sixteen and the two other time periods occur in her past. The last reason that I liked this book is because it is a bit of a mystery. You want to try and figure out who she was literally—who were her real parents?— and who she was emotionally—is she really just the crazy painter’s daughter or is she more?

The author proves that not every relationship is meant to be when you are confronted with a life-and-death situation, and that those who help are the ones you should really appreciate. I was horrified when Carel backed away from Cornelia when she needed him most. But I love who Cornelia chose in the end. This is an emotionally touching book that truly takes you into her past, present, and future.

I Am Rembrandt’s Daughter Stephanie Murphy

Stephanie Murphy, 12
Baltimore, Maryland

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