The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
Published: May 2017
Genre: adult, historical fiction
Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.
After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.
Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.
A neurosurgeon finishing her brother’s research is transported back to a handful of months just before the Plague hits medieval Siena, Italy. While there, research and life collide when Beatrice is sheltered by and works alongside artist Gabriele Accorsi, a painter whose journal was in her possession while finishing her brother’s manuscript. Why was the Plague so devastating to Siena compared to the rest of Italy (and Europe as a whole)? What can Beatrice discover while there that her brother couldn’t find in documents today? Furthermore, is she now accidentally at the center of the plot that decimated Siena?
Color me intrigued.
This book contains a lot of art history, and the level of detail in the setting was exquisite. I felt like I was there in medieval Siena. There’s a romance with an artist, but I wasn’t feeling it. Some romances make you swoon right along with the protagonist, some romances you fall in love with the couple and how they handle their relationship and life’s events, and then there are some romances that seem to be there just to further the plot. That was this one. It wasn’t terrible — just didn’t seem necessary to move it from platonic to romantic.
You can’t have a fictional account of historic Italy without the Medici family wrecking havoc. They, like England’s Tudors, shaped Italian history, so of course there’s no avoiding it, but a part of me was a little bit bummed that the family played such a huge role in the plot of the book. I wanted more from Beatrice rather than the other perspectives. Because Beatrice was so funny. She’s a strong, sarcastic, steady and stable sort of character, and her quips, observations, and one-liners throughout the story really kept the pace moving. Sometimes all you can do when thrown into ridiculous situations is try to find the humor in it!
If you’re looking for something to sink into and bask in the beauty, without thinking too deeply about the plot (and all the timey-whimey open-ended questions), this would be the book to try! Truly, it is a breathtaking read simply for the art and history. Setting was certainly a character of this novel all on its own.
This qualifies as book 11 of 5 library books in 2017.