The Sign of the Weeping Virgin Hardcover – Jan 9 2013
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It comes through in dialogue: "God, I've died and gone to heaven," her protagonist Guid'Antonio Vespucci says over a meal of roast pork and fried ravioli. "No, you've come home to Italy," remarks the man's nephew. It comes through in White's cleverly drawn minor characters, especially the all-knowing, sardonic Cesare, Guid'Antonio's manservant. And it comes through in the way White archly points out the parallels between 15th-century Florentine society and our own--the religious zealots whipping the masses into a frenzy of fear and misdirected blame, the deep divide between the haves and have-nots, the very character of Guid'Antonio, as full of angst, including the marital variety, as any male protagonist in contemporary fiction.
I found myself taking an odd sort of comfort in these parallels--the more things change, right? But they also helped deepen my connection to the story, the characters and their way of life so exotic, so different in so many ways from our own.
White takes us everywhere we've ever fantasized about in Renaissance Florence--an upper-class dining room serving up specialties of a fabulous cook, the studiolo of Lorenzo de Medici (where il Magnifico himself is holding forth), even the elegant apartment where Botticelli's Primavera holds pride of place in its original setting, framed and hanging over a daybed. Can you imagine being part of this culture, where so much art was springing up all around you every day? Where you could meet Michelangelo as a resolute little boy holding his father's hand in the marketplace? Where you could share in the suspense among Italians as to which artist would actually be chosen to decorate the Sistine Chapel?
White feeds all the fantasies, and teaches us a great deal about Italian history along the way. I also love the unique mystery that drives the plot. It's not a mere murderer her sleuth Guid'Antonio is trying to catch. No, he must save all of Florence. And that is a cause any lover of the City of Flowers can cheer for.
Most people who enjoy history have heard of Amerigo Vespucci. His uncle was Guid Antonio Vespucci, a lawyer in Florence during the early 1400s, a time when the arts were flourishing and the Medici family was in power. The Vespucci family was also a major family influence in the area and Guid Antonio supported the Medicis and had a close friendship with Lorenzo de Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent. This was a time and place ripe with intrigue, political maneuvering, and families sparring for position. White utilizes all this in her book, mixed with the Renaissance players such as artists Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo Da Vinci, while also delighting readers with savory details of lavish meals, affairs, and controversies.
As a protagonist, Guid Antonio was interesting and his conversational thoughts unique. He was at all times seemingly confused, yet also extremely intelligent. Pious, yet also flawed. This made him quite the original detective and his dialogue with supporting characters, like his nephew Amerigo, carried subtle nuances and light humor.
The best part of this book was White's revelatory research and historical presence. Due to this her characters were well detailed and very human. We come to know their passions and vices, their secrets and faults, as well as their documented successes and legacies. It wasn't a fast-paced thriller, but more of an educated and historically detailed mystery.
I am an art history buff, so I really enjoyed the introduction of the major artists of this time and as always, enjoy a good conspiracy where paintings and clues are involved.
I look forward to the next book in White's series of Guid Antonio Vespucci historical mysteries. I highly recommend this book if you love braintwisters that are history-heavy prose combined with beautiful descriptive detail and interesting detective work set in one of the best-loved eras-the Italian Renaissance.
A respected lawyer and trusted friend of Florence's most prominent citizen, Lorenz di Medici, Guid' Antonio finds some disturbing changes in the city he loves. The city's depleted treasury has created a number of desperately poor citizens. A young woman has disappeared, supposedly abducted by the Turks and sold into slavery. Even more baffling, the painting of the Virgin Mary in the Vespucci family church has begun to weep. This phenomenon is seen by superstitious Florentines as a sign that the city is cursed by God because Lorenzo di Medici refuses to end his war with Pope. As a "Medici man," Guid' Antonio must deal with new and as yet, unidentified enemies: "Whatever the circumstances, Florence, Lorenzo, and Guid'Antonio, the Medicis and the Vespuccis, were one and the same."
As Guid'Antonio and Amerigo set out to unravel these mysteries, they are beset by rumors and whispers, as well as political turmoil which escalates as the Turkish king moves to expand his Islamic empire and the Pope surreptitiously acquires a large tract of land too close to Florence.
In Guid' Antonio Vespucci, Alana White has created an intelligent, compelling protagonist who invites further development in subsequent novels. However, the center of this historical mystery is Renaissance Florence, a vibrant presence painted by the writer in rich lights and shadows, much like the paintings of Sandro Botticelli and Leonardo da Vinci, both of whom appear as characters in the book. From the well-crafted suspense through the political machinations to the domestic details of the Florentines' households, White has painted a luminous and textured portrait of Florence that lingers in the reader's mind long after the novel has ended.
Sponsoring the investigation is Lorenzo de Medici, despised by both the Church and political enemies. Clues are everywhere- the mystery dances through the pages as Guido'Antonio discovers, thanks to the great Leonardo Da Vinci, how it is that the Virgin sheds tears...but who is making her do so? Is the event related to the young woman being kidnapped by the Turks and then sold into slavery?
This is a fascinating story enveloped by breathtaking descriptions of Florence during the Renaissance- Paradise for art history aficionados! This book was a real treat for me -art, history and mystery all meshed into one beautifully written novel- excellent prose. Although, I have to admit that even if I found the beginning to be rather slow, once the mystery picked up the pace and the events unraveled, I just could not put this down. Loved it!
This review first appeared in the February Issue of HISTORICAL NOVELS REVIEW- Editor's Choice
The writing is very detailed and slow to start, having many characters and sometimes requiring a look back to see what happened or who they are. However, the story line catches you about 1/3 of the way through and moves rapidly thereafter.
I enjoyed the story and would like to see a continuation into the next decades hightlighting the life of the Borgias.