The Towers of Tuscany
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|The Towers of Tuscany
By Carol M. CramPublication Date: Jan 23, 2014
New Arcadia Publishing
This book counts for the following Reading Challenges:
MY THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS BOOK
As a painter, I enjoy very much novels where art has a central part. If it’s combined with historical fiction, it makes for a delight, and that was exactly my experience with The Towers of Tuscany.
Sofia inherited her father’s genes and benefits from his teaching, as painting is concerned, but she has the misfortune of being a female, that is, not being able to have her own art studio. She first paints in hiding in a concealed room where her husband cannot see what she does. Then, after some dramatic events leading to her father’s death, she flees her city in October 1338 disguised as a man to be able to keep painting and doing commissions for rich patrons. One of them discovers her real nature and falls in love with her, which can be a very dangerous thing for her…
The historical setting was wonderfully rendered, with the situation of females in that all masculine world, the rampant and condemned homosexuality, and the inevitable Plague that devastated Europe in the 14th century.
I enjoyed a lot all the characters, and especially the relationship between Sofia and the friends she makes on her escape route. Sofia has a very strong personality and can be stubborn. I enjoyed the way she integrated the wisdom received from her father to counterbalance her own foibles. All along, she reminisces past events and words of her dad; these are integrated in the storyline in italics.
I enjoyed also very much all the art descriptions, for instance on the panel preparations before painting. The description of the city of San Gimignano and Siena make you want to go there right away!
The only thing that didn’t really work for me is the Epilogue. In 2014, a woman buys at auction Sofia’s last painting found under the ruins of a villa she bought in Italy. If the book had been built along a back and forth between the 14th and the 21st century, that would have worked, but to have all the book set in the 14th century, and suddenly this Epilogue in 2014, I found it flat. For me, the book would have ended perfectly just before the Epilogue. But it’s only a few pages long, and doesn’t hid the fact that the whole book is a gem.
All chapters begin with a quotation from Il Libro dell’Arte by Cennini, “often translated as The Craftsman’s Handbook. The book is a “how to” on Renaissance art. It contains information on pigments, brushes, panel painting, the art of fresco, and techniques and tricks, including detailed instructions for underdrawing, underpainting and overpainting in egg tempera. ” [from wikipedia on Cennino Cennini]
VERDICT: This is a beautiful gem for lovers of Italian art and history. Through her stunning colors and her vibrant heart, Sofia invites you into her passionate life and encourages you to follow your own path, at whatever cost.
WHAT IS IT ABOUT
Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, the Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter’s workshop. Sofia Barducci is born into a world where a woman is only as good as the man who cares for her, but she still claims the right to make her own mistakes. Her first mistake is convincing her father to let her marry Giorgio Carelli, a wealthy saffron merchant in San Gimignano, the Tuscan city of towers. Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia’s desire for freedom from her father’s workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son.
In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion—both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her.
The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe’s most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes. [provided by HFVBT]
Praise for The Towers of Tuscany
“The Towers of Tuscany is a delightful escape to the Siena we all love. Carol Cram has crafted a delicious story about a strong woman torn between her secret past, her love of painting and the forbidden charms of her rich patron. Hard to resist and highly recommended!” – Anne Fortier, Author of The Lost Sisterhood and the New York Times bestseller, Juliet
“Carol Cram’s lush descriptions and intriguing characters bring this dramatic tale of medieval Tuscany to life. If you love Italian art, a feisty heroine, and a page-turning plot, you will adore this novel.” – Deborah Swift, Author of A Divided Inheritance
The Towers of Tuscany has all the elements of a wonderful historical novel―a talented, frustrated heroine, a treacherous, feckless husband, and a promise to a dying, much loved father who orders the heroine on a dangerous mission. Carol is a first rate storyteller. The research is well done. Every chapter displays a fine knowledge of painting technique of the 14th century, and customs and mores of the age. The details of dress, fabric, food, are flawless. The clever dialogue and fast pace make the novel zing along.” – Roberta Rich, Author of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife
“Sofia will set your heart racing as she attempts to find what we all, in our own ways, strive to seek: love, resolution, and artistic freedom. The legacy of this story will leave you yearning for more.” – Cathleen With, award-winning author of Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison
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About the Author
Carol M. Cram has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications. She holds an MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and an MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist.
She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada.
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