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The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence: A Story of Botticelli Paperback – April 25, 2017
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"Palombo gives life to the woman immortalized in Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus in a novel that perfectly merges art, history and romance. The Florence of the de Medicis, filled with the glorious colors of the Renaissance, shimmers as the backdrop of this fascinating glimpse into the creation of a masterpiece. This captivating, beautifully written novel may be more fiction than fact, but readers will be entranced and will feel they are an integral part of the unfolding story. Palombo joins the ranks of Tracey Chevalier, Rosalind Laker and those who perfectly merge history and reality." - Romantic Times
"In the tradition of Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring, Palombo has married fine art with romantic historical fiction in this lush and sensual interpretation of Medici Florence, artist Sandro Botticelli, and the muse that inspired them all." - Booklist
“Strikingly feminist…a compelling narrative that is difficult to putdown.” – Publishers Weekly
""Inspired by Botticelli’s iconic painting, The Birth of Venus, Palombo’s tale will sweep you away to the sights, sounds and romance of the Medici’s in Florence." - BookTrib
"Beautifully written and poetically told, The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence will leave you in tears and rushing to get your hands on anything else written by Alyssa Palombo." - Feathered Quill
About the Author
ALYSSA PALOMBO is the author of The Violinist of Venice and The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence. She has published short fiction pieces in Black Lantern Magazine and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively. A passionate music lover, she is a classically trained musician as well as a big fan of heavy metal. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Buffalo, New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
Simonetta marries Marco Vespucci, who is friends with the man behind the Florentine Renaissance, Lorenzo de' Medici, Il Magnifico. Simonetta instantly becomes the star of the de' Medicis' social circle, and soon all of Florence is caught up in the idea of her--emulating her fashion, fighting for a glimpse of her, and gifting her with the title of the most beautiful woman in Florence. She also catches the eye of young Sandro Botticelli and sits for him for a portrait. Moved by her beauty, both inside and out, her likeness begins to appear in more of his works. Simonetta is in heaven, free to read all she wants and to discuss the new and somewhat heretical ideas sweeping through the country with other intellectuals. But not everyone is happy with her esteemed status, and as her star eclipses her husband's, and as so many men vie for her attention, jealousy and thwarted ambition lead to problems in their marriage. Somewhat disillusioned and suffering from bouts of ill health, Simonetta seizes the chance to sit for Botticelli again, this time to be immortalized in his famous masterpiece, The Birth of Venus. Over the course of many months, the relationship between the artist and his muse becomes tangled, and a forbidden passion erupts, though fate will soon intervene with tragic consequences.
Having enjoyed Alyssa Palombo's first novel, and always up for a story that pays homage to a woman forgotten by history, I was super excited to read this book. And I did enjoy it. But there are two things that keep me from rating this book higher. The first is that the plot is incredibly slow-moving. It starts off well, but once Simonetta is married, it falls into a pattern of parties and intellectual discussions. In fact, there is essentially no conflict in the story whatsoever until about page 185 in a story that's 289 pages long. The second thing is that I have the same complaint I had with the author's first novel, The Violinist of Venice, and that is that, like Vivaldi in that book, we don't really get to know Botticelli at all. We don't learn where he was born, who his family was and if they had a good relationship, we don't learn anything about his art training and education, we don't even know how old he is during this story. So that was a little frustrating for a novel subtitled "A Story of Botticelli."
But once conflict finally does kick the plot into gear, I couldn't put it down. It's emotional tension that drives this story, and though Simonetta is the most beautiful woman in Florence, that does not mean that the things that are most important in life come easily for her. This truly is Simonetta's story, and she's an easy character to love. I cried at the end. You would think the woman who inspired one of the most famous paintings of all time would be better remembered by history, and I'm glad Alyssa Palombo gave her a voice and a stage on which to shine. And I very much appreciated the author's note, in which she elaborates on some known facts and explains some creative decisions she made. Some scholars dismiss the notion, but I found Palombo's depiction of the relationship between Boticelli and his muse to be very plausible. Despite my quibbles, I can recommend The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence as a good choice for any fiction reader with a love of art history and an interest in the Italian Renaissance.
It is a story about familial responsibilities, duty, strength, coming-of-age, friendship, art, passion, desire, loss and love.
Simonetta was a feminist ahead of her time who understood quickly that her beauty was both a gift and a curse, and who ultimately longed and strived in her regrettably short life to be known and loved for her knowledge and mind instead.
The prose is smooth and fluid, and the storyline takes us back to the mid-to-late 1400s to the city of Florence when politics, learning and the liberal arts were revered and who you knew was certainly more important than what you knew.
This certainly is a well written, vivid, rich story, and even though there is not much known about Simonetta’s life and the events that led up to Botticelli’s immortalization of her in his famous painting, Palombo has done a remarkable job of taking those historical facts and surrounding them with fiction that is passionate, alluring and incredibly captivating.
The story starts very strong, engrossing, but once she gets married, too many love making scenes present, finishing chapters as the end of each chapter meant night. In this self-absorbed discovery, historical background and her eagerness for knowledge are lost. It’s all about personal feelings.
Little is known about Simonetta. She is just a footnote in history. This gives an author a lot of freedom in using their imagination, which isn't strong in this story. Her eagerness for knowledge is short lived in this story. It’s more of a mention than showing it in action. The history and the richness of the Renaissance Florence is hardly felt in this story, which is a shame, since this is a story of the greatest artistic period with one of the greatest artists and beauty of Florence.
Instead highly recommend: The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant and Signora da Vinci by Robin Maxwell.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Enlightenment, philosophy, and a maturity beyond her years makes Simonetta stand out from the start.Read more