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Painting the Light is a vividly rendered historical novel of love, loss, and reinvention, set on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the nineteenth century. Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. In her first life, Ida Russell had been a painter. Five years ago, she had confidently walked the halls of Boston’s renowned Museum School, enrolling in art courses that were once deemed “unthinkab Painting the Light is a vividly rendered historical novel of love, loss, and reinvention, set on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the nineteenth century. Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. In her first life, Ida Russell had been a painter. Five years ago, she had confidently walked the halls of Boston’s renowned Museum School, enrolling in art courses that were once deemed “unthinkable” for women to take, and showing a budding talent for watercolors. But no more. Ida Russell is now Ida Pease, resident of a seaside farm on Vineyard Haven, and wife to Ezra, a once-charming man who has become an inattentive and altogether unreliable husband. Ezra runs a salvage company in town with his business partner Mose Barstow, but he much prefers their nightly card games at the local pub to his work in their Boston office, not to mention filling haystacks and tending sheep on the farm at home—duties that have fallen to Ida and their part-time farmhand Lem. Ida, meanwhile, has left her love for painting behind. It comes as no surprise to Ida when Ezra is hours late for a Thanksgiving dinner, only to leave abruptly for another supposedly urgent business trip to Boston. But then something truly unthinkable happens: a storm strikes, and the Portland sinks. Ezra and Mose are presumed dead. In the wake of this shocking tragedy, Ida must settle the affairs of Ezra’s estate, a task that brings her to a familiar face from her past—Henry Barstow, Mose’s brother and executor. As she joins Henry in sifting through the remnants of her husband’s life and work, Ida must learn to separate truth from lies and what matters from what doesn’t. Painting the Light is an arresting portrait of a woman, and a considered meditation on loss and love.


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Painting the Light is a vividly rendered historical novel of love, loss, and reinvention, set on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the nineteenth century. Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. In her first life, Ida Russell had been a painter. Five years ago, she had confidently walked the halls of Boston’s renowned Museum School, enrolling in art courses that were once deemed “unthinkab Painting the Light is a vividly rendered historical novel of love, loss, and reinvention, set on Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the nineteenth century. Martha’s Vineyard, 1898. In her first life, Ida Russell had been a painter. Five years ago, she had confidently walked the halls of Boston’s renowned Museum School, enrolling in art courses that were once deemed “unthinkable” for women to take, and showing a budding talent for watercolors. But no more. Ida Russell is now Ida Pease, resident of a seaside farm on Vineyard Haven, and wife to Ezra, a once-charming man who has become an inattentive and altogether unreliable husband. Ezra runs a salvage company in town with his business partner Mose Barstow, but he much prefers their nightly card games at the local pub to his work in their Boston office, not to mention filling haystacks and tending sheep on the farm at home—duties that have fallen to Ida and their part-time farmhand Lem. Ida, meanwhile, has left her love for painting behind. It comes as no surprise to Ida when Ezra is hours late for a Thanksgiving dinner, only to leave abruptly for another supposedly urgent business trip to Boston. But then something truly unthinkable happens: a storm strikes, and the Portland sinks. Ezra and Mose are presumed dead. In the wake of this shocking tragedy, Ida must settle the affairs of Ezra’s estate, a task that brings her to a familiar face from her past—Henry Barstow, Mose’s brother and executor. As she joins Henry in sifting through the remnants of her husband’s life and work, Ida must learn to separate truth from lies and what matters from what doesn’t. Painting the Light is an arresting portrait of a woman, and a considered meditation on loss and love.

30 review for Painting the Light

  1. 4 out of 5

    Annette

    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 in an instant 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 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 in an instant 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 her husband, 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. The story 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. Source: ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Review originally posted at mysteryandsuspense.com

  2. 5 out of 5

    Maureen Grigsby

    This is one of those books where I started slowing down at the end, because I didn’t want it to end. Women have always struggled to find a way to be themselves, without being completely lost in serving others (particularly men). Sally Cabot Gunning is a skilled writer and has wonderful character development in this compelling novel. Many of the characters are unlikeable, but they still resonate! In full disclosure, my thanks to Goodreads for this advanced readers copy. I have always been a huge This is one of those books where I started slowing down at the end, because I didn’t want it to end. Women have always struggled to find a way to be themselves, without being completely lost in serving others (particularly men). Sally Cabot Gunning is a skilled writer and has wonderful character development in this compelling novel. Many of the characters are unlikeable, but they still resonate! In full disclosure, my thanks to Goodreads for this advanced readers copy. I have always been a huge fan of Gunning’s books, so I was very very pleased to see a new one!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Natalie

    Reading this lovely book of historical fiction pleased me, not only because it was so well written, but because of the injection of significant material about the suffrage movement. When Ida learns of her husband’s death in a shipwreck, she is left abandoned and poor. Despite being a talented artist, she is forced to run a sheep farm to survive. The unusual setting for this book is Martha’s Vineyard in the early 20th century. The characters are well drawn, the plot interesting and the setting cl Reading this lovely book of historical fiction pleased me, not only because it was so well written, but because of the injection of significant material about the suffrage movement. When Ida learns of her husband’s death in a shipwreck, she is left abandoned and poor. Despite being a talented artist, she is forced to run a sheep farm to survive. The unusual setting for this book is Martha’s Vineyard in the early 20th century. The characters are well drawn, the plot interesting and the setting clearly defined. I really enjoyed this and recommend it to book groups where women will find a great deal to discuss. Thank you Netgalley for this lovely novel.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Martha's Vineyard 1898. Ida Russell the painter is soon to be Ida Pease the sheep farmer's wife giving up her art courses at the Museum School. It have been five years and Ida's husband Ezra is off doing his own thing leaving the hard work with raising sheep to his wife. He was supposed to be on the "Portland Ship", which went down in a storm all were presumed dead. Thinking herself as a widow, Ida went on living and working on the sheep farm and painting too. Ida found out about Ezra's dishonesty a Martha's Vineyard 1898. Ida Russell the painter is soon to be Ida Pease the sheep farmer's wife giving up her art courses at the Museum School. It have been five years and Ida's husband Ezra is off doing his own thing leaving the hard work with raising sheep to his wife. He was supposed to be on the "Portland Ship", which went down in a storm all were presumed dead. Thinking herself as a widow, Ida went on living and working on the sheep farm and painting too. Ida found out about Ezra's dishonesty and was able to sift out the truth from lies. Ida found love in an old friend that never betrayed her. I won this free book from Goodreads First reads.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gina T

    Thanks to William Morrow for providing this book via a Goodreads Giveaway. Lovely story of a woman who marries hastily, lives to regret it for awhile and then is freed to pursue tentative friendships with people around her, to really "see" the island which nourishes her passion for painting. The descriptions of Vineyard Haven, the sheep farm, the sea are evocative. As I read Ida's flailing experience of learning how to ride a bike and then the feeling of success, I recalled my 8 year old self fee Thanks to William Morrow for providing this book via a Goodreads Giveaway. Lovely story of a woman who marries hastily, lives to regret it for awhile and then is freed to pursue tentative friendships with people around her, to really "see" the island which nourishes her passion for painting. The descriptions of Vineyard Haven, the sheep farm, the sea are evocative. As I read Ida's flailing experience of learning how to ride a bike and then the feeling of success, I recalled my 8 year old self feeling the same thing. The author shows us how Ida grows to love the island enough to want it to play an important part in her future and to see that marriage isn't necessary. As other reviews have said, there are many things for a book club to discuss: knowing yourself, how to deal with grief, destructive power of family secrets and lies, what's needed for places and people to grow on you, freedom, self-sufficiency and independence, open-mindedness, etc. I liked the novel, however I would have like to have more background on the characters and their motivations. How did Ida became so modern in her thinking. She chafes at the restrictions that female artists face, she wants to vote, she thinks nothing of riding a bicycle or wearing pants or meeting alone with a married man?

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donna Foster

    An in-depth read where the realization that not all good or bad events and situations are always as they appear in the light of day.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Connie

    I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads giveaway. I’m not a great writer so I’m hesitant to put my thoughts in a review. Out of all the characters, I enjoyed Lem the most. He was very honest and I liked how he cared for everyone regardless of if he approved of their attitudes or actions. I struggled with Ira because I feel like the story tried to show her as strong and independent but yet she was frequently fooled into accepting whatever was handed her. I thought the artistic details for d I received an ARC of this book through Goodreads giveaway. I’m not a great writer so I’m hesitant to put my thoughts in a review. Out of all the characters, I enjoyed Lem the most. He was very honest and I liked how he cared for everyone regardless of if he approved of their attitudes or actions. I struggled with Ira because I feel like the story tried to show her as strong and independent but yet she was frequently fooled into accepting whatever was handed her. I thought the artistic details for drawing and painting were very well done. Often I felt like I could see the colors and art work Ira was working on or describing. Overall, I enjoyed this book and the story it told.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Alissa

    character driven. Place is very well defined (Nantucket Sheep Farm). Loved the bicycle riding, the painting and the small sub plot on women's suffrage. character driven. Place is very well defined (Nantucket Sheep Farm). Loved the bicycle riding, the painting and the small sub plot on women's suffrage.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Martha

    This is my favorite Sally Gunning book so far. Ida, artist turned sheep farmer via marriage, is a feisty character who doesn’t let the opinions of others rule her behavior. It isn’t long into her marriage that she realizes what a terrible mistake she’s made. She’s been used and left to tend the sheep on what she thinks is her husband’s farm on Martha’s Vineyard. So, when nothing is as it seems, what do you do? Acquire a bicycle and learn to be free. Since it’s 1898 and unseemly for a woman to r This is my favorite Sally Gunning book so far. Ida, artist turned sheep farmer via marriage, is a feisty character who doesn’t let the opinions of others rule her behavior. It isn’t long into her marriage that she realizes what a terrible mistake she’s made. She’s been used and left to tend the sheep on what she thinks is her husband’s farm on Martha’s Vineyard. So, when nothing is as it seems, what do you do? Acquire a bicycle and learn to be free. Since it’s 1898 and unseemly for a woman to ride a bicycle—at least in some people’s eyes—this isn’t such a bad idea. Riding the roads of the Vineyard turns out to be inspirational for an artist, and as Ida counts her mistakes in life, she also is able to see her mistakes in color, form, and perspective in her art.She grudgingly accepts some people as friends, even though her reception on the island has been far from cordial— maybe some of that is her own fault. Her schemer of a husband hasn’t helped matters much, so when he disappears, it’s good riddance, though she can’t entirely get rid of the bad rubbish. Helpful, but sometimes not all that helpful, is the brother of her husband’s partner, the source of the fabulous bicycle. Since the bike belongs to the estranged wife of this man, it becomes a strange sort of currency between Ida and him. She gives it back when she’s displeased with him, he brings it to her to earn her good graces. Sound complicated? It is, but winningly so, which is why Ida is such a wonderful character—smart, stubborn, vulnerable, and introspective, all in one.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Janis Daly

    When you find an author who includes the Boston Beaneaters in her narrative, you know you've found a kindred soul. Sally Cabot Gunning's newest historical fiction sweeps us off Cape Cod to 1893 Martha's Vineyard. In the middle of the island we meet Ida Russell Pease, a Boston Museum School trained painter who has traded in her brushes, easels, and palettes for hayracks, shears, and a bicycle. After learning her husband is lost at sea, the Widow Pease, (much like Lyddie Barry in Gunning's The Wid When you find an author who includes the Boston Beaneaters in her narrative, you know you've found a kindred soul. Sally Cabot Gunning's newest historical fiction sweeps us off Cape Cod to 1893 Martha's Vineyard. In the middle of the island we meet Ida Russell Pease, a Boston Museum School trained painter who has traded in her brushes, easels, and palettes for hayracks, shears, and a bicycle. After learning her husband is lost at sea, the Widow Pease, (much like Lyddie Barry in Gunning's The Widow's War) sets out to redefine her life on her terms. From glimpses of the suffrage movement to the direct symbolism of the bicycle as a means to achieve movement and freedom, Painting the Light reveals buried strengths and resolves for women to march forward. Ida's success in overcoming difficult relationships and one family tragedy after another emboldens her. Gunning captures the setting of island life in New England with vivid sensory detail making the pages blend into a masterpiece fit for framing.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Leighton

    Thank you to William Morrow and Goodreads for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Painting the Light by Sally Cabot Gunning is an engaging historical fiction novel about a woman whose husband unexpectedly dies in a shipwreck. Ida is a certified painter who took art courses at schools that were only for men. Once she gets married, however, her husband restricts what she can do and spends their money gambling. One day, she gets news that her husband perished in a shipwreck. What will she do Thank you to William Morrow and Goodreads for this ARC in exchange for an honest review! Painting the Light by Sally Cabot Gunning is an engaging historical fiction novel about a woman whose husband unexpectedly dies in a shipwreck. Ida is a certified painter who took art courses at schools that were only for men. Once she gets married, however, her husband restricts what she can do and spends their money gambling. One day, she gets news that her husband perished in a shipwreck. What will she do with her newfound freedom? Will she finally pursue her art? How will she generate an income in this male-dominated world? Here is an excerpt from the prologue when Ida attempts to enroll in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in 1893: "Childish, yes, but it burned, burned like a careless hand on a hot iron, that when she'd tried to enroll in the class she'd been told by the Museum School registrar that it "wasn't for ladies." She'd gone straight to the dean, and when he'd said "unthinkable" in response, she'd foolishly interpreted it to mean that it was unthinkable for a woman to be barred from the class." And here's is an excerpt from Chapter 1, which takes place 5 years later, after Ida marries her husband Ezra: "Ida looked at the clock again. Quarter to five. Not that she needed to wonder where her husband was - his usual route home ran through the back room at Duffy's where he played cards and "did his part to fill the spittoon, as he told Ida back in the days when she'd bothered to ask what took him." Overall, Painting the Light is an interesting historical fiction novel with some surprises in the plot I wasn't expecting. Read on to see how Ida deals with her predicament as a newly-liberated widow after a terrible marriage. Will she be able to survive on her own? Will she return to her roots as a painter? I did take off 1 star because I don't typically enjoy historical fiction. That's not the book's fault. I'm just explaining why it wasn't a 5-star read for me personally. If you're intrigued by the excerpts above or if you're a fan of historical fiction, I highly recommend that you check out this book, which was just released this week!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Beth

    PAINTING THE LIGHT Setting: Boston bustling city contrasts Martha’s Vineyard idyllic island Subjects: Women’s rights, restrictions in early 20th century Bourgeoisie vs. working class farmer Artist and sheep farmer Grief, loss, joy, change, discovery, self realization Relationships: family, spouse, friend, lover, teacher, with animals, nature Characters: Ida middle class, educated, artistic, sophisticated, urban lady transforms to country sheep farmer who discovers who she really is Ezra her schemin PAINTING THE LIGHT Setting: Boston bustling city contrasts Martha’s Vineyard idyllic island Subjects: Women’s rights, restrictions in early 20th century Bourgeoisie vs. working class farmer Artist and sheep farmer Grief, loss, joy, change, discovery, self realization Relationships: family, spouse, friend, lover, teacher, with animals, nature Characters: Ida middle class, educated, artistic, sophisticated, urban lady transforms to country sheep farmer who discovers who she really is Ezra her scheming husband Henry- engineer, business partner with Ezra, Ida’s love interest Ruth & Hattie Ezra’s aunt & cousin old fashioned and withholding Lem big hearted sheep expert helper This is a beautifully written historical novel. I savored every word. I have read all of Gunning‘s novels and they are extraordinary.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Kaye

    Ida is a aspiring talented artist in Boston in 1898. After family tragedies she is wooed and marries Ezra. But after only a couple of years in marriage everything isn’t bliss. She is left running their sheep farm alone more and more as Ezra is gone with his partner Mose. She is widowed and faces the reality that her family money is gone and the farm she is on belongs to Ezra’s Aunt Ruth. It follows the story as she tries to make a life for herself and return to the artist she once was. I love he Ida is a aspiring talented artist in Boston in 1898. After family tragedies she is wooed and marries Ezra. But after only a couple of years in marriage everything isn’t bliss. She is left running their sheep farm alone more and more as Ezra is gone with his partner Mose. She is widowed and faces the reality that her family money is gone and the farm she is on belongs to Ezra’s Aunt Ruth. It follows the story as she tries to make a life for herself and return to the artist she once was. I love he setting of Martha’s Vineyard and the comparisons to Boston. The time period is interesting too as Ida scandalously learns to ride a bike giving her some freedom on the island. The issue of women’s right to vote gets some mention too. The story is beautifully written but slow moving. Even though there were some surprises I took time to read two other books while reading this one. This is for lovers of historical fiction and there is much for book clubs to discuss. Thank you NetGalley and Harper Collins Publishers for an ARC ebook in exchange for an honest review.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Miskell

    I picked this book up just as the lambs were arriving at our local sheep farm and this book is set on a sheep farm on Martha’s Vineyard, just a ferry ride from us. Ms. Cabot Gunning captures the life on Martha’s Vineyard in the late 1800’s and especially brings to life the challenges of the farming life. #marthasvineyard #historicalfiction

  15. 5 out of 5

    m

    I have been a fan of Sally Gunning's since "The Widow's War," and was thrilled to learn that she had written a new historical novel. Set on Martha's Vineyard in 1898, this book features another strong and sympathetic Gunning heroine: Ida Pease, a one-time painter turned sheep farmer's wife. The compelling story touches on many of the author's familiar themes - society's and family's expectations, women's rights and the search for freedom and identity - against multiple historical backdrops: the I have been a fan of Sally Gunning's since "The Widow's War," and was thrilled to learn that she had written a new historical novel. Set on Martha's Vineyard in 1898, this book features another strong and sympathetic Gunning heroine: Ida Pease, a one-time painter turned sheep farmer's wife. The compelling story touches on many of the author's familiar themes - society's and family's expectations, women's rights and the search for freedom and identity - against multiple historical backdrops: the Boston art scene; life on a sheep farm; shipwrecks and salvage; the fight for women's suffrage. Additionally, there is more than one love story. There's a lot going on here (perhaps a little too much?) but once I settled in, I found this book fascinating and extremely readable. I understand that the author is also a mystery writer, but I hope she keeps the historical fiction coming! Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sharing the ARC of this title with me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    There are so many wonderful aspects to this novel. Gunning delivered a cinematic setting of Martha's Vineyard with well-deveoped characters. The details on sheep farming and the infusion of the suffrage movement bring this story to life. This is my first book by Gunning and not only will I read more of her work but I will recommend to others, especially women. Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my review. There are so many wonderful aspects to this novel. Gunning delivered a cinematic setting of Martha's Vineyard with well-deveoped characters. The details on sheep farming and the infusion of the suffrage movement bring this story to life. This is my first book by Gunning and not only will I read more of her work but I will recommend to others, especially women. Thank you Netgalley for the opportunity to read this in exchange for my review.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Heather Hunter

    While this was a historical novel set in 1898, it told a beautiful story of a woman who has lost herself and finds herself through the presumed death of her husband. The former painter from Boston is charmed amidst her grief and finds herself a sheep farmer on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Set in a time where women couldn't vote and were still expected to do as told, this story pits Ida against the tides as she learns to advocate for herself while tending farm and her late husbands estate, al While this was a historical novel set in 1898, it told a beautiful story of a woman who has lost herself and finds herself through the presumed death of her husband. The former painter from Boston is charmed amidst her grief and finds herself a sheep farmer on the island of Martha's Vineyard. Set in a time where women couldn't vote and were still expected to do as told, this story pits Ida against the tides as she learns to advocate for herself while tending farm and her late husbands estate, all the while learning what to hold onto and what to let go of, what secrets we keep and what truths we're willing to face. Obviously I was rooting for Ida throughout this whole book and I felt her character was developed in a way that I could identify with her thoughts and actions. I was angry when I felt she was stifled, and found myself thinking "yes!" whenever she spoke her mind or found her confidence. Only when she really admitted what she wanted was she able to find joy in her life. And only when she was willing to admit to herself that the measure of her worth wasn't dependent upon anyone else was she able to finally let go. Great book!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Fay

    Sally Cabot Gunning lives in Brewster, MA and is a lifelong New Englander. While I've been away from New England longer than I lived there, I still identify as a New Englander. Since we share a regional loyalty and her books are all set on Cape Cod and surrounding areas, I gravitate to them whenever I'm in a bookstore on the Cape. This is her newest effort..... and a very good one! This book tells the story of Ida Russell, a resident on Martha's Vineyard in 1898. The novel begins in Boston where Sally Cabot Gunning lives in Brewster, MA and is a lifelong New Englander. While I've been away from New England longer than I lived there, I still identify as a New Englander. Since we share a regional loyalty and her books are all set on Cape Cod and surrounding areas, I gravitate to them whenever I'm in a bookstore on the Cape. This is her newest effort..... and a very good one! This book tells the story of Ida Russell, a resident on Martha's Vineyard in 1898. The novel begins in Boston where Ida is an art student at the Boston Art Museum. Through various mishaps at sea, she loses her father and brothers. Not too long after, her mother expresses her grief by throwing herself off the wharf with stones in her pockets to assure that she will achieve her purpose. Thus, Ida is left alone. At a point in time later, she agrees to marry Ezra and move to his sheep farm on the Vineyard. And thus begins Ida's new life. I will let Sally tell you the rest of the story as she does it so well. I must get copies of the two remaining books she has written which I've not read. She is a great storyteller researching her topic well and painting the picture of events so that the reader feels a part of events.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Barb

    I really enjoyed this novel which according to the author and her editors is more than a sheep farm story. Quite a bit more. The setting is Martha's Vineyard in 1898 and while the Vineyard was an island with it's own commerce and industry, it sort of lay in the shadows of the mainland, notably New Bedford and further inland and much bigger, Boston the birthplace and hometown of the main character Ida Russell. Tragedy strikes the affluent Russells and Ida is left alone with her paints. She meets I really enjoyed this novel which according to the author and her editors is more than a sheep farm story. Quite a bit more. The setting is Martha's Vineyard in 1898 and while the Vineyard was an island with it's own commerce and industry, it sort of lay in the shadows of the mainland, notably New Bedford and further inland and much bigger, Boston the birthplace and hometown of the main character Ida Russell. Tragedy strikes the affluent Russells and Ida is left alone with her paints. She meets a nice man and his wife at a gallery where her work is shown. He thinks, along with her art instructor, that she might have talent. This is all swept away when a handsome gentleman absconds with her heart, and her family assets and brings her to his sheep farm on Martha's Vineyard. We learn quite a bit about a number of things in this book. Sheep farming is one of them. I live near a small farm with sheep (unusual in the Metro NY/NJ area). I've seen newborn lambs up close. I've held the lanolin rich wool just sheared off a sheep and own a blanket made by my grandmother that was woven from wool she had washed combed and spun. So I was not uninformed but I learned so much more and that was really nice. Tips hat to author and her research. We also learn about the differences in portrait vs. landscape painting. I can't draw a stick figure and I admire those who are truly artists. I marvel how they can put to canvas, board and paper, an assortment of colors and have it reflect what I have seen with my eyes. We learn through Ida's work that white isn't really white in painting. Other techniques are described but in such a way as to be so entertaining that you almost wish to go out and try it. But I think the crux of the story is the rights of women. And while really only visited occasionally through the book, one realizes how important and revolutionary the suffrage movement was at the time and how much women today owe our ancestors. The author could have really focused on this, but instead she let us find it as Ida did.. frustrating circumstances and chance encounters with leaders in the movement. All of it was helpful...to the character, the story and to the historical perspective. As an aside...we still do not have an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. This was a gentle book, very well written, compelling enough to read in three days. I am stingy with my 5 star ratings, but this was certainly a 4.5 and I recommend it to readers of historical fiction, artists, those who love the North East Coast, particularly Martha's Vineyard and Cape Cod) turn of the century stories, and good character development with a strong female presence. (Only a touch of romance, and just the right amount in my opinion). Thank you to Goodreads Giveaways for the ARC of this book. It is to be published in June 2021. Put it on your TBR list :D.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    4.5 stars. I have read a few books by this author and love the historical aspects, the New England settings, and the look into the lives of women in those times. But I had a hard time getting into this book at the beginning. However, once I read about a third of this book, I could not stop reading and I didn't want it to end. Ida was such a well thought out character. She was a strong woman in a time when that was not accepted and she had no choice but to make her own way in the world. I would h 4.5 stars. I have read a few books by this author and love the historical aspects, the New England settings, and the look into the lives of women in those times. But I had a hard time getting into this book at the beginning. However, once I read about a third of this book, I could not stop reading and I didn't want it to end. Ida was such a well thought out character. She was a strong woman in a time when that was not accepted and she had no choice but to make her own way in the world. I would have enjoyed knowing more of Ida's back story before she met Ezra in order to have a better understanding of how she was raised and what may have influenced her determination, her courage, her resolve.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pam

    3.5 This was a bit too slow for me. It was one of those reads in which I wanted to DNF but still wanted to keep reading and finish. I loved the role the bicycle in the story and especially enjoyed the last 15 percent or so of the story.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Gail Nelson

    Not my favorite...

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Marvelous!!! This was full of light! I loved the references to painting! It was such an amazing story of love and friendship. It was a two day read because I didn’t want to leave the places to which it took me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebekah A.

    This novel surprised me. In retrospect, I am not sure what I expected, but I was delighted by what I read. By the end, I was crying tears of joy and sadness for the journey I had with the characters. This review is of an uncorrected proof text I won in a Giveaway. Note: as an English teacher, I have a VERY high bar for a 5-Star rating; those texts which shake my soul or that I would wish to teach earn that high of a rating. That being said, this novel is a solid 4. Through Ida's journey, we the r This novel surprised me. In retrospect, I am not sure what I expected, but I was delighted by what I read. By the end, I was crying tears of joy and sadness for the journey I had with the characters. This review is of an uncorrected proof text I won in a Giveaway. Note: as an English teacher, I have a VERY high bar for a 5-Star rating; those texts which shake my soul or that I would wish to teach earn that high of a rating. That being said, this novel is a solid 4. Through Ida's journey, we the readers learn a great deal about womanhood and social mores at the closing of the nineteenth century. The notions that women could run their own lives, choose their own passions, and--gasp--even ride a bicycle were controversial and thus momentous. Ida grows as she discovers who she is in the face of unspeakable heartbreak. By the time I was finishing the novel, I had grown to really adore and appreciate Ida; I could see myself in her choices and understand her struggles. This is the power behind the novel. As is the setting: a sheep farm on Martha's Vineyard was brilliant as it became a thoughtful background for the characters and their struggles. I loved immersing myself in the daily tribulations of the sheep. It also served as a beautiful metaphor for the human issues of the day. I further felt that the motif of painting and light was an integral part of the text. This novel was told simply, allowing the natural beauty of the setting to shine. For people who like reading about women in history and who like learning how strongly social conventions were enforced or believed in, this is the novel to read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Janetkelsey

    This author just keeps writing good books Very enjoyable story of a woman on a sheep farm and her relationships with the men and women in her life.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Olivia's Bookish World

    Great historical fiction. Loved Ida and loved the suffragette sub plot.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kathei

    I’m in tears having finished reading, no not sad tears, just misty eyed from such a lovely story. I read lots of science fiction and mysteries so Painting the Light was a gentle change of pace. Set in Martha’s Vineyard it was interesting to hear about life there during the late 1800s I also learned more about sheep farming than I ever expected to know.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Laura Beasley

    I won a copy of this book on Goodreads Giveaways. A good story and the author is a good writer. Story was interesting but a little unbelievable at times. Ida married Ezra and left Boston. It doesn’t take long for her to realize she has made a mistake and that Ezra is not who he led her to believe. Ezra and his partner Moses drown at sea and Moses’s brother comes to settle the estate. Ida had met him before and once again there is some attraction but Henry is married. Ida deals with the sheep far I won a copy of this book on Goodreads Giveaways. A good story and the author is a good writer. Story was interesting but a little unbelievable at times. Ida married Ezra and left Boston. It doesn’t take long for her to realize she has made a mistake and that Ezra is not who he led her to believe. Ezra and his partner Moses drown at sea and Moses’s brother comes to settle the estate. Ida had met him before and once again there is some attraction but Henry is married. Ida deals with the sheep farm and relatives of Ezra. Ida finds out things Ezra has kept hidden from her and she has to decide whether to stay or go back to Boston .

  29. 5 out of 5

    LadyCalico

    I really loved this oh so human drama--intriguing complex plot, rich and full background, well-drawn characters, natural and often delightfully acerbic dialogue, depth and gravitas. This is an exceptionally well-constructed and well-written novel, but above all I loved the characters. There are no perfect people here, no Mary Sues or Gary Stus, but flawed people, some worse than others, genuine people who make mistakes, misunderstand and misjudge each other, displace their hurt and anger on othe I really loved this oh so human drama--intriguing complex plot, rich and full background, well-drawn characters, natural and often delightfully acerbic dialogue, depth and gravitas. This is an exceptionally well-constructed and well-written novel, but above all I loved the characters. There are no perfect people here, no Mary Sues or Gary Stus, but flawed people, some worse than others, genuine people who make mistakes, misunderstand and misjudge each other, displace their hurt and anger on others, and usually see things only from their own limited perspective, but underneath it all is the theme of joy and freedom even though knowing they come at a very high cost. Do not look for wooden stock characters, generic plot chestnuts, clichéd anything, simplistic solutions, or unambiguous moral and ethical issues. These characters reside in a starkly realistic literary world of sheep and storms, not unicorns and rainbows. After all, you can't paint light without any dark.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sharron

    *I received a free copy in a Goodreads giveaway. Did a great job of setting the time period, setting, and developing characters. The story dragged a bit in the beginning. The ending was the bigger problem, it completely changed tone; it went from being an immersive read to this is what happened.

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