I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
Note: this book was originally published under the title Painting Mona Lisa.
Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de’ Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence’s magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.
More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths. Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano’s nephew and namesake. But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.
Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.
I just finished reading this book, which I picked up at the bookstore on a whim earlier this month. I thought it was wonderful. This vividly-drawn picture of 15th century Florence over five hundred pages long, but it never lagged. I was intrigued by and invested in Lisa from the beginning.
I haven't studied enough about Renaissance Italy to say whether the book was historically acurate or not, but I can say that there was nothing in it that struck me as being out of place (as sometimes happens in historical novels).
The book's plot is dramatic and well-paced. Kalogridis' take on the identity of the subject of Leonardo's Mona Lisa and her connection to him is interesting. Most importantly, though, the author does a wonderful job bringing her characters to life.
I have The Borgia Bride on Mt. TBR and I'm thinking that I might just have to bump it up the queue. I also requested The Burning Times through BookMooch. If I like both of those I might even try reading her Dracula books.