Monday, July 2, 2007
Thoughts on Books: I, Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis
This was a very interesting and well-done work of historical fiction. The author did a fantastic job of weaving a tapestry of true and false - such a job that it is, in fact, difficult to see where one ends and the other begins. The characters are all familiar people from the pages of a history of the Italian Renaissance - Mona Lisa, Lorenzo di Medici, Pope Alexander, Michelangelo, and Leonardo di Vinci. There is a timeline of events in the back of the book to help the reader separate fact from fiction, but this book demands a further look into the history of Florence.
Now, I picked up this book during an blessed hour in which my sweet husband sent me to Borders by myself to hunt for some new authors to read. I was intrigued by it because I’m fascinated by the flat not-quite-smile on Lisa’s face in the painting. Since the week she was our picture study, I’ve been wondering what she was watching or thinking about in the moment that her expression was captured. This book gives several options for the answer, explains some things about the way painting were dong in the era, and tells a fascinating story.
One thing that kind of surprised me from the book was that, though the world of fifteenth century Florence is very different from twenty-first century Oklahoma, people never change. There are all kinds of people in this story, and some of then act just as you’d expect while others are full of surprises.
Actually, the whole book was full of surprises. This is the first book I’ve read in a while that kept me guessing - I often have the end of a story figured out halfway through, but this one surprised me right down through the last few pages.
Just a warning: this is not Christian fiction - it is not objectionable, as it depicts an ugly time in ecumenical and secular politics in Florence, but it is not written to edify the reader in any way - just to tell the story in a memorable way. There are several scenes that are true to the customs of the time period that are rather gruesome (executions, for instance), but overall, it is a very entertaining read. I read the 515 pages within 48 hours - it’s that compelling - so don’t start it during a busy week. :) It’s a terrific beach (or, in my case, lake house) read.