I picked this book up about three weeks ago, read 100 pages and put it down. I was so overwhelmed with Italian characters, terms and locations that I didn't even want to continue.
But I did evenutally pick it back up about 3 days ago and I finished the remaining 415 pages in that time. I am so incredibly glad I did.
Kalogridis takes a few simple, historical facts and weaves it into this engrossing fictional tale of Mona Lisa.
It left me wanting to know more about this woman and the painting so famously created by Leonardo Da Vinci and all along wishing the story was true. Her portrayal of the love affair between Madonna Lisa and Guiliano and the power struggles between the Pazzi family and the Medici reminded me of Shakespeare's "Romeo & Juliet" at times.
I am usually not a fan of historical fiction but now am intrigued by other books written by the author.
It's slow in the beginning and the names can be mildly confusing, but once I got into it I couldn't put it down. Great historical fiction with lots of mystery and intrigue!
A captivating time in the past, an engaging heroine, murder, romance and plotting, and the most popular portrait of all time--all written by a scrupulously factual author whose voice is melodic and believable. This novel has it all and represents the best historical fiction has to offer. I was hooked from the first chapter.
This book relates, in first person, an imagined life of the subject of La Gioconde, da Vinci's masterpiece portrait of Mona Lisa. She tells of her daily life and the extraordinary times she became caught up in, all set against the backdrop of one of Italy's most magnificent cities, Florence.
You will not be disappointed.
I decided to read it for the Historical Fiction Forum's Reading Challenge after seeing it highly recommended by a number of the participants and I'm so glad that I did! I have to say that this is probably one of the best books I've read in a while! It's hard for me to say too much about this book without giving away any surprises (which start pretty early on in the story), but I will give it my best shot. This novel tells the story of Lisa di Antonio Gherardini, the woman who is believed to be the subject of the Mona Lisa. Kalogridis takes historical facts and artfully weaves in fictional elements to fill in gaps about Lisa's life (though many liberties seem to be taken based on some info I looked up after reading the book, but that's ok, it's still a great story). It starts before she was born with a murder that will influence her life later on. The story then fast forwards to Lisa's life as the artistic city of Florence copes with a rising religious figure who despises what he sees as pagan art. This religious fervor takes over the city and leads to the fall of the most power family in the city, the Medici family. What follows next will change Lisa's life forever as she finds herself trapped in a series of events that revolve around her but are out of her control (until she decides to take control for herself that is).
Kalogridis paints beautiful imagery throughout the book and does a great job at giving us characters that we can care about. We feel Lisa's feelings, both happy and sad, and hope for the best for her. The only difficulty with this book is the assortment of Italian names at the beginning, but even that isn't too much of an issue as you get used to it and continue to read. I look forward to looking into more of her work! :-) The pace of this story is pretty quick, so even at 700+ pages, it doesn't really suffer from getting bogged down in itself the way other longer books often do. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes historical fiction, mystery, or is just looking for a good book to get lost in! :-)
A really excellent read. I'd never read Jeanne Kalogridis before, but I adore her writing style. Fluid, engaging, descriptive, and so nice to read. In the first part of this story, we hear the tale of how Lisa's life events were set into motion. The Medici family, the most powerful family in Florence, was torn apart when youngest brother Giuliano was murdered in the Duomo by the conspiring Pazzi family. After this, Florence was thrust into turmoil - a new preacher came into popularity, hailed as a sort of Messiah, demanding that Florence turn away from materialism, which caused Florence to turn away from the Medici family.
Lisa is stuck in the middle of all of this. She meets Lorenzo de Medici and through him becomes acquainted with Leonardo da Vinci. All the political, economic, and religious issues of the time come to light as we journey through Lisa's life, and Kalogridis does a wonderful job of connecting actual historical events with fictionalized experiences. There are some major twists that you won't see coming, and that will ultimately surprise you. I absolutely loved this book and can't wait to read more of Kalogridis' work.