internat librarian's Reviews > The Smile

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli
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's review
Nov 04, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: grades-7-and-up, historical-fiction, romance, art
Read in November, 2010

I expected a book about art and Leonardo da Vinci, with clues to reveal the secret behind Mona Lisa and her smile. But the process of painting is rendered insignificant. Instead, Napoli has created a tapestry of Florentine nobility in the age of the Medicis.

It helps to know a little history of the Italian Renaissance at the turn of the 15th century. It helps even more to be interested in that history. Politics play a very important role in this novel.

Napoli stretches and bends the facts, however, to account for Madonna Elisabetta herself. She is a strong and fascinating character, swept into an improbable romance to rival Romeo and Juliet. The story gets a bit too teary-eyed and “Oh papa/daughter/my love! How could you!?!” It is a romance, after all, as well as an entertaining flashback to 10th grade history class.
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