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I, Mona Lisa: A Novel by Jeanne Kalogridis: A Book Review

I, Mona Lisa: A Novel
Author: Jeanne Kalogridis
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: 2006
Pages: 544
Source: Personal Collection
Synopsis: "My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa.  My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born."

    Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.

     More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths.  Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake.  But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.

     Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.

      My Review: Mona Lisa is one of Leonardo’s da Vinci’s most famous portraits. Her smile has captured the hearts of millions for centuries. Yet, it seems that the woman in the painting is more mysterious than her smile. It is because we do not know much about the life of Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous model. We know that she was an aristocrat, and that she married a silk merchant. However, Jeanne Kalogridis re-imagines the life of the model of Mona Lisa, and her story into a tale of mystery, thrills, and suspense.

     The story begins with the a murder of the brother of Lorenzo de Medici in Florence Duomo. This murder has a lasting stain on Florence, especially the Medici family and who vows vengeance on those against the murderers. The story then shifts to Lisa Gherardini’s story, and it is she who narrates the story. She falls in love with the son of Lorenzo de’ Medici and forms a friendship with Leonardo da Vinci, who is interested in painting her. It seems as if she is living in a fairytale. Her happiness is short-lived when she finds out that there is a plot to get rid of the Medici family.

     The setting of Florence is very grim. It is a city that has violence, conspiracies, and murders. The most influential man in Florence, besides the Medici family, is the fanatic priest Savonarola. He is against the Renaissance movement, and views it as an abomination to God. In fact, most of his scenes occur at night which enhances the dark atmosphere of Florence.

      Overall, this book is filled with danger, suspense, mystery, romance, friendship,and suspense. The plot is filled with twists and turns till the very end. It is a book that that cannot be put down until the very end. The characters are realistic, relatable, and well-developed. Lisa Gherardini is a smart, brave, and strong heroine. The friendship between Lisa and her painter, Leonardo da Vinci, is kind and sweet. He treats her as her mentor, and he is very knowledgable about the conspiracies in Florence. I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in Leonardo and his Mona Lisa. I also recommend this to anyone who is looking for a good thriller and suspense novel.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


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