cover image THE VANISHING POINT: A Story of Lavinia Fontana

THE VANISHING POINT: A Story of Lavinia Fontana

Louise Hawes, Author . Houghton $17 (226p) ISBN 978-0-618-43423-7

Hawes (Rosey in the Present Tense ) pens an entertaining, at times moving novel inspired by the 16th-century Italian artist Lavinia Fontana. Set in Bologna, the story centers on 14-year-old Vini, the only child of master painter Prospero Fontana. She longs to be an artist but gets no encouragement from her stern father or from her frail mother, who is cowed by her husband ("Your three brothers dried up in her womb and I am without a son," the man tells Vini at the dinner table). Undaunted, Vini sneaks art supplies from the studio with the help of the apprentice, Paolo, who is handsome, rich, untalented and head-over-heels in love with his master's daughter; he also acts as accomplice in her plot to gain a place as one of her father's apprentices. The author smoothly weaves together Vini's growing compassion for her mother, who gets pregnant once more, with the heroine's fears of displacement if a son is born. An afterword reveals that the real Lavinia wed Paolo and 30 of her paintings still exist, including a self-portrait reproduced on the back cover. Occasionally the narrative wears its research a little too heavily (a brief passage of time is described as "the length of a Paternoster") and readers can skip the italicized dream sequences. Overall, the vivid period details add authenticity to a story that's a pleasing mix of drama, history and, yes, romance. Lavinia's first kiss may well leave readers swooning, while her obsession with painting feels authentic. Ages 10-14. (Sept.)