Signora da Vinci

Robin Maxwell, Author . NAL $15 (448p) ISBN 978-0-451-22580-1

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.)

Reviewed on: 11/24/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
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