The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz
Published January 2009 by Harper Collins Publishing
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours
In 1457, in Prato, Italy, Fra Filippo Lippi, monk and reknowned artist is teetering on the edge of disaster. His morals are suspect, his spending imprudent and he's definitely taken on more than he can manage. He's taken a commission for a painting of the Madonna but can't seem to find inspiration. Sisters Lucrezia and Spinetta Buti are recently impoverished following the death of their silk merchant father and the slandering of his good name. The only option for them is to become novitiates at the Convent Santa Margherita. Spinetta, who has always planned a life in a religious order readily accepts her fate but Lucrezia is heartbroken to have to give up her dreams of someday being a wife to a wealthy man and a mother. When Fra Filippo, who is the chaplain for the convent, first sees Lucrezia he has found his muse.
Lucrezia's visits to the Fra's bottega draw the notice of powerful people, including the Prior General, who are quick to think the worst of the situation. Things quickly spiral out of control and even the fact that Lippi and Lucrezia have fallen in love cannot salvage the situation.
When I finished this book I surprised to realize that I had not marked one passage with a sticky tab nor had I taken one note. That usually mean that I could hardly stomach the book; that it was not bad enough for me to mark things that I wanted to point out as reasons not to read the book. Which was not the case at all with this book. I liked it well enough but it just never grabbed me.
Morowitz, who is an art historian, clearly knows her stuff and there is a great deal of detail regarding painting techniques, the creation of paints, and the specifics of how various forms of painting are rendered. All of which is a wonderful teaching tool but there is just too much of it; it frequently slows the pacing of the book and distracts rather than enhances.
Although I never became fully engaged with the characters, I did get wrapped up in the story as the tension grew and it became more and more apparent that terrible things were going to happen to Lucrezia and Fra Filippo. But the ending felt rushed for me and a final chapter that threw us many years into the future was a disappointment.
Fra Filippo Lippi and Lucrezia Buti are actual historical people, as are many of the other characters. Albanese has crafted the book around the rumor of their liason and I did enjoy the historical background of the story and the look into the power structure of the time.
Other sites related to the book check out:
As always with TLC Book Tours, you can find a number of opinions about this book. Dar, of Peeking Between The Pages, loved this book and felt the combination of the fact and fiction was seamless. For the other reviews, please check out these sites:
Tuesday, August 10th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wednesday, August 11th: The Tome Traveller
Thursday, August 12th: English Major’s Junk Food
Monday, August 16th: The Whimsical Cottage
Wednesday, August 18th: Bookalicio.us
Tuesday, August 24th: Passages to the Past
Wednesday, August 25th: Lit and Life
Thursday, August 26th: Life in the Thumb
Monday, August 30th: Rundpinne
Tuesday, August 31st: Drey’s Library
Thursday, September 2nd: The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader