We choose books for lots of different reasons.
I chose this one because we went to Florence on a recent holiday. I could imagine the heroine walking down streets to places I had visited.
Plus I am intrigued by the lives of artists and the subtitle of this book is ‘A Story of Botticelli’.
Simonetta Cattaneo is the woman of the title and is not so much a heroine as a young woman in 15th century Italy living her life as best she can.
This is a story based on truth – for history records little of the doings of women.
Alyssa Palombo has taken the people, the places, the morals, the intrigues and the fickle nature of life to create a story about a young woman determined to be more than her beauty.
As Alyssa says in her author notes, she has written a story of ‘Simonetta’s relationship with Sandro Botticelli, whatever the truth may have been.’ It is not simply a story of Simonetta and Sandro and his most famous painting ‘The Birth of Venus’. It is a story of Simonetta’s life from the time of her betrothal to her death. The story revolves around her relationship with four men – her husband Marco Vespucci, the Medici brothers, Lorenzo and Giuliano, and Sandro Botticelli.
Simonetta is from a noble family in Genoa and is married at 16 (old for the time) to Marco Vespucci from Florence. Her beauty dazzles the Florentines. While at times it is a nuisance and a curse to Simonetta, she is more interested in accessing the Medici cultural treasures, especially Lorenzo Medici’s library. As a painter, Botticelli also is captivated by her beauty.
As a man, he can see past it to her soul. After facing a humiliating betrayal, Simonetta finds a small sense of peace in Botticelli’s honesty.
Alyssa has made Simonetta bold, opinionated and fiery. I like that. There are no cardboard or clichéd characters here. I could picture each scene like a personal movie. That to me is good writing.
I happily recommend this story and look forward to reading her earlier book ‘The Violinist of Venice’ which is about Vivaldi.
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