Painting the Light
May 28, 2021

Book Review

Painting the Light

Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. Ida Russell attended Boston’s renowned Museum School, making her mark in watercolor. But once she arrives on the island and becomes Ida Pease, the married life becomes her destruction. Even the island’s serene landscape doesn’t help in continuing her passion. Suddenly, everything changes as her husband is among those who were on a ship bound for Boston, which crashes and all are presumed dead.

In flashbacks the story reveals how she meets her husband, which collides with the time when she is grieving a loss of her family. How quickly they drift apart and why. The peace that she saw in island’s descriptions presented by her husband while trying to woo her, quickly washes away. When she married him, she didn’t know much about him. And when the waters claim his life, it turns out that she didn’t learn much more about him while married to him. She is left pretty much penniless and that propels her to figure out how she can survive as an independent woman. Not only that, there are things that her husband didn’t reveal to her in hopes to fix them in certain time, which was cut short. And now, she is forced to deal with the consequences.

During this time, she hears about Julia Ward Howe making progress in suffrage movement which is on the rise. With such veracious leadership, women are voting in more states. It gives her an inspiration to rally the women on the island and fight for women’s right to vote. However, this is a very minor part of this story.

When she finds a respite in learning how to ride a bicycle, it unsettles some as what others may think of a married man teaching Ida to bike and her skirts flying around. Nevertheless, this gives her much needed freedom in a sense, which further opens her eyes to the beauty of the island and the colors, which further reawakes her passion for painting. Once feeling isolated and helpless, now she sees the island in a different perspective. 

The story is character driven with well-defined place of rolling hills, dotted with sheep, and meeting the sea – a place where an artist can find an inspiration. The protagonist goes through that stage of awakening, where her vision is blurred at first, but then she starts seeing colors. Painting The Light takes time in revealing details of Ida’s life and her progression to become an independent woman and her finding the way back to her artistic side. It is written with a beautiful prose which makes you stay attached to the story.

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