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The Shepherdess of Siena: A Novel of Renaissance Tuscany Paperback – March 31, 2015
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“From the hills of Tuscany, to the streets of Siena, to the hidden abbeys and convents scattered throughout the area, this is one story that kept me spellbound to the very end. Betrayal, murder, kidnapping, love, and much, much more fill every page. Definitely a tale for the horse lover in all of us.” —Historical Novel Review
“An epic and richly textured tale of Renaissance Tuscany...If you enjoy really good historical fiction, stories that move and snap with life, stories that make you feel deeply for the characters and their struggles, then you will love [The Shepherdess of Siena].” —Aspen Daily News
“The Shepherdess of Siena is a lengthy, involving read that drew me in at once and which, it turns out, is based on a true heroine of Siena. Long may she ride.” —Fresh Fiction
About the Author
Linda Lafferty taught in public education for nearly three decades, in schools from the American School of Madrid to the Boulder Valley schools to the Aspen school district. She completed her PhD in bilingual special education and went on to work in that field, as well as teaching English as a second language and bilingual American history. Horses are Linda’s first love, and she rode on the University of Lancaster’s riding team for a year in England. As a teenager, her uncle introduced her to the sport of polo, and she played in her first polo tournament when she was seventeen. Linda also loves Siena, Italy, and the people of the region and has returned to the city half a dozen times in the past three years to research her novel. Linda is the author of three previous novels: The Bloodletter’s Daughter, The Drowning Guard, and House of Bathory. She lives in Colorado with her husband.
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The de' Medici banking family was raised to royal status over the Tuscany Dutchy under military powerhouse Cosimo de' Medici in the 1500s. Fictionalized versions of his children are the focus of this book, along with their interactions with artists and subjects under their reign, most importantly with Virginia, a shepherdess with many hidden talents. Virginia is based on an historical figure, too. Her story in this book is half fact and half fiction, as the author admits in the Author's Notes.
The de' Medici have long been favorites of historical gossips, many of whom have put the salacious inventions linked to the family down in print, giving them an authority they do not always have in historical fact. The author makes use of these juicy stories for her novel. And much historical research has also gone into the development of the story, which will surely please fans of historical epic novels.
There are 102 chapters divided among seven parts in The Shepherdess of Siena:
A de' Medici Princess and the Little Shepherdess - 1569-1574
The Death of Cosimo de' Medici - 1574-1576
Murder in Tuscany - 1576-1578
The Heroine of Siena - 1579-1581
Ferrara - 1581-1582
The Art of Death 1582-1586
The Reign of Granduca Ferdinando - 1586-1591
This sweeping saga covers romance, politics, gossip, power, patronage, crime, religion, sports, patriotism, royals, adventure, pathos... The voice is sometimes first-person, and at other times third-person. The text is sprinkled with Italian words. The English is excellent and the editing expert.
This is one for historical novel fans, those who love to be immersed in another time and place. Italophiles with a love of Italian history should enjoy the time they can spend in Renaissance Tuscany, hobnobbing with the exciting de' Medici family.
Please visit my full and illustrated review at Italophile Book Reviews. I received a review-copy.
The story deals with a shepherdess in Siena who dreams of riding horses and in particular wants to ride, and win, the famous Palio. Intertwined in her story are stories of several of the famous people of the time and place, primarily the Medici clan. The idea would not be bad, albeit predictable. The subject matter is certainly filled with opportunities, but the execution is worse than a high school student could put together using wikipedia as his or her research. The multiple points of view story telling is extremely choppy, each chapter barely 2-3 pages, not allowing for any story to develop. Why not write several chapters from each character's voice? Maybe then we could develop some of the most interesting people in Italian history beyond thoughts of how nice it would be if I were a man, or not married to so and so.
The author is clearly capable of better, this is a an absolute waste of time and money.
The author seemed to have a really hard time keeping track of the age of her protagonist. One minute she was 7 years old and predictably ignorant (innocent)... and in the next several paragraphs the child was performing mouth to nose CPR to a new born foal...an animal she'd only seen from a far not 5 paragraphs earlier... so it was presented as a kind of miraculous internal sense of knowing... which would have worked - if it had been more than a one -off in the life of the child.
but then again, one minute the child was mooning over horses while she was shepherding (alone? at seven? in the hills?... (Not exactly sure what a seven year old would do if a wolf actually came around... chase it with a stick?...) and then upon returning home then the aunt was berating her for being out in the fields with boys/men accusing her of being a whore and giving away her "value". Not sure a 7 year old would be thinking about sex - much less be able to grasp the insult... so for several paragraphs she was like-13 (at least from the perspective of the aunt) and then abruptly her age would return to child again... and over the course of the first third of the book - she was randomly 7 or 10 or 13 or 8...
The physical development of the foal was easily as wierd - It seemed to take that new born foal at least three years to lose his mane fuzz and grow some decent adult hair...
and then later there was a completely unbelievable moment when this girl - who (admittedly) had grown.. but who had been completely sequestered - so had never seen a man, much less developed any physical fantasies or desires...
suddenly found herself wrapped in a mans arms - and she was like - OHHHH This is what its all about!... (?? where did THAT come from?!)... here is this purely non-sexual person -who suddenly (and for the span of a couple paragraphs) becomes the raving hormonal sensory magnet...
Well - no. The mental and physical response the author chose to represent simply wouldn't have happened like that... not in this person - not in that environment... not under those circumstances.
So there definitely were some distracting moments in this book - but the story overall was not horrible, (especially after the kid grew up and the time-world settled down a bit. I may well read it again - just for the horses... and the history...
its worth a go.. just try to let her be the age she is at the moment and dont pay much attention to the fact that the growth periods are entirely unrealistic.
Most recent customer reviews
A Historical novel with horses and set primarily in Tuscany was a Must Read, and it proved enjoyable.Read more