The Miracles of Prato, Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz
I picked this book up off the new arrivals shelf at the library and wasn’t sure what to expect. I have enjoyed quite a few books about Italian Renaissance art and if I ever go to Italy I’ll have trouble remembering what about the artists is fact and what I have read in fiction. That’s fine with me though! This novel focuses on Fra Filippo, a monk/artist in the Italian town of Prato, and Lucrezia Buto, a merchant’s daughter who is sent to the convent in Prato after her father’s death. Fra Filippo meets Lucrezia and uses her as a model for the Madonna in one of his paintings. Lucrezia is caught between her desire to be a good person and longings for the secular life. Both she and Fra Filippo are manipulated by many people who are motivated by greed, lust, and fear as much as they are by a desire to be close to God. I enjoyed the novel as a quick read but if you are specifically looking for something about this time period I’d recommend The Illuminator by Brenda Rickman Vantrease, or The Lady and The Unicorn by Tracy Chevalier. And if you do read The Lady and The Unicorn then you'll definitely have to read her other book The Virgin Blue because it is fabulous.
Brooklyn, Colm Toibin
I had seen this novel recommended on multiple blogs so I was thrilled when I actually found it on the shelf at the library and didn’t even have to wait for it to come in. When I see something recommended so many times I go in with high expectations and this met them. Brooklyn is the story of a young Irish girl named Eilis who comes to America to get work and finds herself torn between her old life and her new life. Although the novel has plenty of plot to keep it moving, the real page turning force is Eilis’ personality and her struggles to define herself in America and reconcile that with the life she had expected to have in Ireland. In addition, there are great period details about the social divides between Italian and Irish immigrants. I read the whole book in one day and my only disappointment was that it had to end.
The reason I got so much reading done this weekend was because I had time on the plane to and from Philadelphia. My wonderful friends and family threw me a bridal shower at my mom’s house, and I’ll be posting more about that later. The bridal party suggested that people give me books to go with their gifts and I was thrilled with an abundance of cookbooks, nonfiction, and novels. At the request of some of my cousins here’s a list of the non-cookbooks I got. I can’t wait to dig in!
My Life in France, Julia Child
Red, White, and Drunk All Over, Natalie MacLean
The Woman Behind the New Deal, Kirsten Downey
History of the World in Six Glasses, Tom Standage
Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, Karen Rauch Carter
The Coffee Trader, David Liss