Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

I am Rembrandt's Daughter

I am Rembrandt's Daughter

Lynn Cullen
Historical Fiction
For ages 12 and up
Bloomsbury, 2007   ISBN: 978-1599900469

Cornelia is angry with the whole world, especially with her father Rembrandt van Rijn. You would have thought that with a famous painter for a father that Cornelia would be well off and living comfortably. Instead Cornelia and her father are very poor and they are isolated because Rembrandt has done things which the people of Amsterdam do not approve of. Not only has he become bankrupt, but he also lived in sin with his maid, refused to marry her, and had a child with her. Cornelia is that child and she is treated badly by her neighbors because of her background.

Though she is angry with her father Cornelia must still take care of him and she still has to be the one to worry about their future. Her much loved brother, Titus, has recently married a very wealthy young woman and without him around Cornelia is alone and without support.

Then Cornelia meets Carel, the son of a wealthy ship owner. Her love for him is overwhelming and she cannot help dreaming that one day she will become his wife and live in comfort for the first time in her life. Cornelia's happiness when she is with Carel is cruelly balanced by the unhappiness that she feels with she is in her father's messed up world. Cornelia wants to know why her father refused to marry her mother – who died during a plague epidemic a year ago. Why did Rembrandt not legitimize his relationship with Cornelia's mother and thus secure her own position in society?

Switching between days in Cornelia's past and those in the present, the author of this excellent work of historical fiction gets deep inside the mind and heart of a young girl who falls in love for the first time and who desperately wants to feel valued and wanted. Cornelia does not feel that she fits in and dreams that she will one day find her place in the world.

With careful attention to detail the author has drawn on numerous sources of information and she has created a true-to-life picture of what life in Holland was like during Rembrandt's life time. Most of the characters in the story did exist and the author tells us more about the real Cornelia, her brother, and her father in an author's note at the end of the book.