Sunday, 11 April 2010

Painting Mona Lisa by Jeanne Kalogridis

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The assassination of Giuiliano de Medici and the vengeance of his brother Lorenzo create the backdrop to the story of the young Lisa Gherardini. She is the daughter of a wool merchant and his beautiful but haunted wife. When her mother dies in tragic circumstances, Lisa is drawn into the life of the powerful Medici family and the artists they patronise.
When I picked this book up I expected it to be a historical romance based around the painting of the Mona Lisa...what I got was a very in depth historical account of fifteenth century Florence (which I openly admit I'm pretty ignorant of) the downfall of the Medici family and the rise of Savonarola. The historical aspects are fascinating but somehow I remained pretty unmoved by the circumstances that Lisa finds herself in. It may be due to the main narrative being in first person from Lisa. Through the book she goes from a girl to a young, twice married mother, but that didn't really come across to me. Her feelings seemed to lack depth and emotion and so I was left feeling a bit cold. My other grizzle is that Leonardo (obviously he has to appear!) is a bit bland - yes, he's artistically brilliant in the novel but he main role is spy and runner for the Medici’s - maybe this was to emphasise an "everyman" aspect of his character, particularly when Lisa’s true parentage is revealed, but there was little acknowledgement of his sheer genius.
Interesting, but slow and heavy going in some sections, this was not helped by weak character development in Lisa