From Publishers Weekly
Maxwell (Mademoiselle Boleyn
) re-creates Renaissance Italy in splendid detail, but fails to deliver a convincing narrative in her tale of da Vinci's mother, Caterina, an apothecary's daughter who is schooled from an early age in the art of alchemy. At 14, Caterina falls in love with Piero da Vinci, an older man above her station. After he promises to marry her, they make love, and the seed of the great artist is planted. But their plans doesn't work out: Piero's family forbids him from marrying Caterina and later takes baby Leonardo from his unwed mother. Leonardo is not treated well by the da Vinci family, but in his occasional visits to the apothecary shop, precocious Leonardo thrives. Soon his skillful drawings compel Caterina to seek an artist's apprenticeship for Leonardo in Florence, where he matures into a highly accomplished artist. Caterina misses him so terribly that she plans a hard-to-imagine reunion that changes her life in unbelievable ways. While the setting and known events of the artist's life are meticulously rendered, the plot relies too much on suspension of disbelief. (Jan.)
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In this exquisite gem of a novel, Robin Maxwell conjures a fascinating account of Leonardo Da Vinci's mother, a bold woman whose adventurous spirit and quest for her own truth captures the exuberance of the Italian Renaissance. Though little is known of the historical Caterina da Vinci, Maxwell's impressive research and keen storytelling skills sweep us into a very plausible account of a young alchemist's daughter whose unfortunate love affair brings her the greatest love of her life - her genius son - as well as the opportunity to escape the restrictions of her gender and enter a seductive garden of philosophy, art, learning, and danger. From the dusty streets of Vinci to the glories of Lorenzo Il Magnifico's Florence and the conspiratorial halls of Rome and Milan, Signora da Vinci
is a tour de force celebration of one woman's unquenchable ardor for knowledge and of a secret world that historical fiction readers rarely see.
C.W. Gortner, author of The Last Queen
"A glorious novel of fifteenth century Florence, utterly engrossing and glittering with color. Lorenzo the Magnificent, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci and his courageous, passionate mother, Caterina walk through the pages of this book, radiating life and touching the heart. I will never see the Mona Lisa
with the same eyes again. Robin Maxwell has a stunning achievement in Signora Da Vinci
Sandra Worth, author of The King's Daughter
"Signora da Vinci
is without a doubt the best historical fiction I have read all year. In her most remarkable novel yet, Robin Maxwell takes us back to the turbulent times of the Italian Renaissance to give us a beautifully rendered and captivating portrait of Leonardo da Vinci's mother, Caterina. A masterful blend of fact and fiction, Signora da Vinci
Michelle Moran, Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen
The latest offering from novelist Robin Maxwell, Signora da Vinci
focuses on the unsung genius who was Leonardo da Vincis parent-his mother. Two decades ago, while working on my non-fiction Uppity Women in history series, I pegged Caterina da Vinci as a spirited female and wrote briefly about her, longing to know more. Now, thanks to Maxwell, we get a superbly imagined portrait of a woman living in turbulent times who boldly behaved as few dared. The book does justice to Caterinas intellectual curiosity as well as her maternal instincts toward the son who was torn from her. She moved in a world that included the glittering Medicis and the villainous Savonarola, all of whom are well- limned in this sparkling epic. Set in the sunshine of 15th century Tuscany, the novel continually delights with intriguing details, from the bottega workshops of the great Italian masters to the minutiae of an alchemists laboratory.
Vicki Leon, Uppity Women of the Renaissance, Working IX to V
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