No. of pages: 366
Synopsis: Young widow Simonetta tries to rebuild her family in 16th century Saronno, tuscany, following the death of her husband in one of the battles ravaging the land. In pursuit of a means to keep her estate together, she stumbles upon a new drink made by inffusing almonds with alcohol. At the same time, she encounters Bernadino, the protege of Leonardo da Vinci. What follows is a glorious story of passion, betrayal, warfare and bravery.
Review: Two parallel stories of love, loss and growing up. Simonetta is a widow at 17, and her dead husband has left her broke, so in order to save her house she agrees to pose as Madonna for artist Bernardino Luini who is painting a religious fresco in her local church. Peasant orphan Amaria is being raised by a kind woman she calls Nonna, and when she tells Nonna of the strange wild man in the woods, Nonna goes to look for him and takes him into their home. On the verge of death, the man they call Selvaggio has what appears to be many war wounds, but he doesn't remember anything of his former life or how he came to be injured.
Historical fiction is a genre I've not really tried before, as I didn't think I'd enjoy it very much. How wrong I was! The story was so easy to get in to, and the characters are fantastically written, I found it so easy to imagine them in my mind with the vivid descriptions that are given. I enjoyed reading about the wars and the religious persecutions of Jews and thought both subjects were written about really well. To put it simply, there was nothing about this book I disliked at all, everything about it was great. I'd really recommend it and I'm eager to now read The Glassblower Of Murano, Marina Fiorato's first novel set in the same time period.