Published by Katherine Tegen Books on November 10th 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult
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Young, beautiful, and witty, Ginevra de’ Benci longs to take part in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence. But as the daughter of a wealthy family in a society dictated by men, she is trapped in an arranged marriage, expected to limit her creativity to domestic duties. Her poetry reveals her deepest feelings, and she aches to share her work, to meet painters and sculptors mentored by the famed Lorenzo de Medici, and to find love.\r\nWhen the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, arrives in Florence, he introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers—a world of thought and conversation she has yearned for. She is instantly attracted to the handsome newcomer, who admires her mind as well as her beauty. Yet Ginevra remains conflicted about his attentions. Choosing her as his Platonic muse, Bembo commissions a portrait by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them—one Ginevra can only begin to understand. In a rich and enthralling world of exquisite art, elaborate feasts, and exhilarating jousts, she faces many temptations to discover her voice, artistic companionship, and a love that defies categorization. In the end, she and Leonardo are caught up in a dangerous and deadly battle between powerful families.\r\n
Full disclosure: I am not usually a big fan of historical fiction. It’s just not my thing. But I received this book in my December OwlCrate, and I was determined to give it a fair shot. I was hoping that it was going to be an exercise in trying something new and being surprised by how wonderful it was. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way. During the first half of the book, not much happens. We get an idea for what society was like in Florence during the Renaissance. We attend some celebrations (they joust! they flirt!), we learn how poorly women are treated, and the idea of the Platonic Muse is introduced. But not much happens to drive the plot, and I was bored. The writing felt dry and none of the characters jumped out at me. I actually considered calling this one a DNF, but I was determined to finish. http:// via GIPHY Around halfway, things finally picked up a little and I found myself more interested. But it seemed like they happened rather quickly, and then there was an anticlimactic and not terribly satisfying ending. The most interesting thing to me was reading the Afterword and learning what was actually based in historical fact and why the author drew additional conclusions that were fictionalized. I found myself googling the works of art and the artists who were featured in the book. The idea of the Platonic Muse was just crazy to me. A wealthy man would find a beautiful, virtuous young girl and by having a (supposedly) platonic relationship with her, he would become closer to God. He would commission poems to be written about her, or have paintings and sculptures done to celebrate her beauty and chastity. We got a glimpse of how that man’s wife probably felt about the arrangement, and of course, society would gossip and speculate as much as they would swoon and celebrate the relationship. And, obviously, there were many times when these relationships didn’t remain so pure. But in a society where women were bartered as a tool to better a man’s business, it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott is the fictionalized account of Ginevra de’ Benci, who was able to be an influential woman in a time when that was unheard of. I did enjoy the banter of the artists, and the bond that Da Vinci and Ginevra formed. I wished that there had been more scenes between the two of them, though. The author’s love for her subject was obvious, and it was very well researched. I can’t say that this story did anything to improve my opinion of historical fiction, but I do feel that I came away with a bit more knowledge about art and culture during this period.