Monday, December 1, 2008

Signora da Vinci- Robin Maxwell

Signora da Vinci
Robin Maxwell
NAL, Jan 2009, $15.00
ISBN 9780451225801

In Vinci, Italy Caterina, as befitting the daughter of an apothecary, is trained in alchemy. In 1451 when she turns fourteen, Caterina meets and falls in love with much older Piero da Vinci. Although he is from a much higher social circle, he offers to marry her. They make love and she becomes pregnant.

He reneges on his pledge as his family threatens to disown him if he weds his inferior mistress. After Caterina gives birth, Piero's family takes away the newborn Leonardo from his unwed mom; as she has no rights compared to their influence. The da Vinci brood abuse Leonardo, but his visits to his mom gives him hope. When she sees his incredible drawings, she arranges for him to apprentice with a master artist in Florence. Missing her son, who is becoming renowned as an artist, Caterina arranges a reunion with her Leonardo, but a surprise awaits her in Florence.

SIGNORA DA VINCI is a fascinating biographical fiction that looks deep into the life of Leonardo’s mother. The story line is well written as it brings out the sacrifices Caterina did to obtain quality time with her son while he is raised by his wealthy affluent paternal family. The background of the Renaissance is also intricately interwoven into the plot. Although she performs some seemingly implausible events, which Caterina admits “would be impossible for a woman of my station” that detracts from the tale even with an explanation, sub-genre fans will relish this reflective refreshing indirect glimpse into the life of Leonardo through the eyes of his doting mom.

Harriet Klausner

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