"The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence" is the story of Simonetta, a woman who men fawn after whenever she walks by. At first she believes she is livin"The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence" is the story of Simonetta, a woman who men fawn after whenever she walks by. At first she believes she is living a charmed life with a husband who actually adores and loves her and artists like Sandro Botticelli who want to paint her likeness. Looks can be deceiving though as we see in this latest historical fiction offering from Alyssa Palombo.
You've probably seen pictures of Simonetta. She is the muse for some of Botticelli's most famous paintings. I know I had seen her before but her story as a muse is largely glossed over by Botticelli's talent and renown. I loved how the author was able to take the story of a women who many have seen but few know details about and create a story to introduce us to the person behind the painting. The story does really focus on Simonetta (it is told from her perspective) and not Botticelli. This is one of the great things about historical fiction to me is that it can introduce you to those "behind the scenes."
The writing of the book was good! I loved Palombo's previous book about the famous composer Vivaldi. I didn't like this book quite as much but it is still a very good read. Simonetta has a very real feeling voice and I thought that getting to see the events of the book directly through her eyes was a very effective tool in getting me engaged with the book from the very beginning. This reader can't wait to see what Palombo does next!...more
"I Change Worlds" is the memoir of Anna Louise Strong, an American who left the country to go live in the Soviet Union because it aligned with her ide"I Change Worlds" is the memoir of Anna Louise Strong, an American who left the country to go live in the Soviet Union because it aligned with her ideals. She has a very idealized view of the changes brought in the 1920s and 1930s in the Soviet Union. Being an American born in the waning years of the Cold War, this was such an interesting perspective to read about.
Even after the Cold War, the idea that people would leave the relative comfort of the United States for the Soviet Union is strange - this isn't what we typically focus on or even mention in history classes. Our history classes still seem to have a fairly rose-colored view of our country without accounting for many differing opinions. This book is one of those differing opinions. Strong is initially very hopeful for the improvement of working conditions in the USSR. She witnesses Stalin's various plans to shake various countries into production and growth. It was fascinating to see her perspective on what was going on.
Strong is also a journalist and her job takes her places that were not necessarily open to women or Americans at the time. It shed a lot of light on what it would have been like to be a person living during this time. She has some really interesting experiences in the book. At one point, she goes back to the U.S. to have conversations with Henry Ford about investing in the USSR (I did not ever realize that the USSR was so interested in investment. She talks about the American companies that would or would not invest in the USSR (it's a fascinating list. Ford entertained it. House of Morgan refused)! She also gets to meet directly with Stalin after making a complaint about her work and in the book, she calls him one of the easiest people in the world to talk to (but was he really??? that's not ever a description I've heard associated with Stalin).
I love when books make you question what you do and do not know. This book gave a perspective that I never had thought about before and definitely made me think about just how different points of view can really be!...more
"Slightly South of Simple" is the story of Ansley and her three daughters. During 9/11, Ansley lost her beloved husband and fled to her grandmother's"Slightly South of Simple" is the story of Ansley and her three daughters. During 9/11, Ansley lost her beloved husband and fled to her grandmother's house in Georgia that she inherited with her three daughters. It was a big change from New York City but the solace she found saved her. Her daughters are now grown with families and lives of their own. They are all fleeing back to Georgia after facing crises of their own. Will they be able to find the same solace?
This is the first book in a planned series. The story mainly focuses on Ansley, the mother, and Caroline, the oldest daughter of the Murphy family. The chapters are split between them so we can see both sides and get to know both characters. I instantly warmed up to Ansley. She has seen a lot in her years and she is trying to use her experience to help her daughters whether they want to admit it or not. Ansley is hiding her own secrets that begin to be unraveled throughout the book and only serve to endear her more to the reader.
Caroline was a harder sell for me. She spends the first part of the book being miserable, spoiled, and selfish. Yes, she is going through a very public divorce. Yes, the divorce happened when she was pregnant but she seems to drag herself into being negative at every turn at first. She is obsessed with how she looks even while pregnant and taking care of another daughter (who she seems to want to pass her own sensitivities to at every turn). Eventually we get to see some growth and realization that there is more to life than what life looks like from the outside of everything but it is a hard wrought lesson.
The relationship between mothers and daughters is an amazing relationship but it can be incredibly difficult as we see in this book. I love reading about these relationships and I love that we get to see the action in the story from both mother and daughter.
This is a light read and is perfect for when you're looking for a book with a lot of heart and a great small town setting!...more
4.5 stars. "The Gods of Tango" is the story of Italian immigrant Leda who comes to Argentina in the early 1900s. She is married to her cousin and when4.5 stars. "The Gods of Tango" is the story of Italian immigrant Leda who comes to Argentina in the early 1900s. She is married to her cousin and when he suddenly dies, she is left alone in a city where she knows no one. She will have to carve out a life for herself in this brand new place. She is swept up in the tango music of the city, which isn't really open to women at the time. So she decides to live her life as a man, never telling anyone her secret, which could ruin her career. This is a sweeping novel that looks at what it means to carve out a true life for yourself.
Leda is a fascinating character. She goes through so much trouble to disguise herself as a man and does it so well that she is able to not only live as a man but to love as a man as well. This gets her into trouble later on in the book but it was fascinating to see how long she was able to carry out the ruse for. She struggles with who she is. Society is not particularly open to women at the time and certainly not open to lesbians. You are pulling for her the whole time as you just want her to be able to live her life in the way that she wants to live it. I really liked that the author shed light on a time when people had to be completely closed off about who they loved if it didn't fit the embraced narrative of the day: one man, one woman, forever and always.
The book takes place mostly in Argentina with a bit in Italy at the beginning and Uruguay at the end. I love reading books set in South America and it doesn't seem like I get there often enough in my reading travels. This book gives a lot of good detail about what was going on in Buenos Aires at the time and how the city was changing. I really enjoyed all of the detail and this book made me crave reading more historical fiction set in South America.
Overall, this book was off the beaten path, which I really enjoyed. It's a good read with good detail and memorable characters....more