November 13, 2012

Latest Read: Passion Blue

Here are the basics ...
Book: Passion Blue
Author: Victoria Strauss
Site: http://www.victoriastrauss.com/
Category: Young Adult - Historical Fiction

Summary: The illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, Giulia is determined to defy fate by turning to a Astrologer-Sorcerer for a talisman which will help her claim what she believes is her heart's desire: true love. It's a last resort as she's about to be shipped off to the Santa Marta convent. But the convent surprises her. There are strict rules and long hours of work but there’s also friendship and female artists who produce paintings of astonishing beauty. Yet even as Giulia begins to learn a painter’s craft, the magic of the talisman is at work, and a forbidden romance beckons her down a path of uncertainty and danger. Does she really know the true compass of her heart? (Adapted from goodreads.com

[Note: ARC c/o BEA! Book already available! Release date 11/6/12.]
My thoughts…
The good: Almost immediately, I sympathized with Giulia. In a way she reminded me of heroines from classic fairytales. Evil stepmother (or in this case, her father's widow since she's illegitimate), raised in servitude despite her semi-noble blood and outcast the minute her father dies to a life she doesn't want.  For Giulia, the last thing she wants to be thrown into a convent against her will.  She wants to fall in love, get married and have children.  But she doesn't have a choice.. or does she? At the convent, she finds that the image she had of nuns doesn't completely line up with the life she witnesses first-hand.  Instead she finds comraderie, a chance to further her education and best of all, a chance to paint.  All her life, she'd drawn sketches but it isn't until she becomes Suor Humilita's (the convent's maestra of the arts) apprentice that she realizes she could become more. She could become an artist, known throughout country and get actual commissioned work.

I enjoyed Giulia's journey of self-discovery.  She thought she knew what she wanted but then this whole new path is presented to her.  But it takes her a long time to let go of her pre-conceived notions and childhood dreams and open herself up to possibility.  The whole book is this interesting tale of history, art, the few choices women had at that time (to be someone's wife if your family could afford it or become a nun and potentially pursue your true interests) and knowing your heart's desire.

(Some) reservations:  I had some trouble connecting with the story. As much as I enjoyed the characters (Giulia and the nuns she befriends), something was missing.  I wanted the story to delve deeper in each of the different characters, as individuals and the sisterhood they felt for each other.  Why did they love to paint? Why was it so important to be a part of this workshop to create religious art for their city? We definitely get a glimpse but I didn't think it was enough.  And Giulia spends so much time trying to get away, even "falling" for a boy hoping he'd provide her escape.  I never really bought their romance so when certain secrets are revealed about him, I can't say I was surprised.  I would have preferred if the choice between love and painting had been more compelling and difficult for her.  But to me, I think it was always very clear.

Do I recommend?: I think if you're a lover of art and history, you'll find this book interesting. It was quick read but I didn't love the story as much as I was hoping to.

Happy reading!

2 comments:

  1. Oh wow, I have never heard of this one, but it sounds like something I'd definitely like! I think it's the fact that it seems like it has historical roots in there AND it features art.

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  2. I like art and history, but not being able to fully connect is always kind of disappointing. I did purchase this based on the low price and the Megan Whalen Turner blurb, so I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised.

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