Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The Towers of Tuscany by Carol M. Cram

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Read: April 20, 2014

Set amid the twisting streets and sunlit piazzas of medieval Italy, the Towers of Tuscany tells the story of a woman who dares to follow her own path in the all-male domain of the painter’s workshop. Sofia Barducci is born into a world where a woman is only as good as the man who cares for her, but she still claims the right to make her own mistakes. Her first mistake is convincing her father to let her marry Giorgio Carelli, a wealthy saffron merchant in San Gimignano, the Tuscan city of towers. Trained in secret by her father to create the beautifully-crafted panels and altarpieces acclaimed today as masterpieces of late medieval art, Sofia’s desire for freedom from her father’s workshop leads her to betray her passion and sink into a life of loveless drudgery with a husband who comes to despise her when she does not produce a son. In an attack motivated by vendetta, Sofia’s father is crushed by his own fresco, compelling Sofia to act or risk the death of her soul. The choice she makes takes her on a journey from misery to the heights of passion—both as a painter and as a woman. Sofia escapes to Siena where, disguised as a boy, she paints again. When her work attracts the notice of a nobleman who discovers the woman under the dirty smock, Sofia is faced with a choice that nearly destroys her. The Towers of Tuscany unites a strong heroine with meticulously researched settings and compelling characters drawn from the rich tapestry of medieval Italy during one of Europe’s most turbulent centuries. The stylishly written plot is packed with enough twists and turns to keep readers up long past their bedtimes.

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Carol M. Cram's The Towers of Tuscany is a tough book for me to review. It's a nice story, with strong themes and I think it offers interesting insight to the painter's trade, but it is an emotion driven drama which was something of a challenge as I am naturally drawn to conflict based narratives or complex political intrigues. I say this so that readers might understand my point of view and take my rating with a grain of salt. 

My favorite aspect of the piece were the details regarding Sofia's trade. The creation of the panels and frescos, from their earliest design to the mixing of the colors, Cram's illustration of technique captured my imagination and more than once sent me in search of examples from the period. Art is about passion and the intricate details and descriptions found here forced Sofia's enthusiasm and zeal from the page in a display of spirit that even one such as myself couldn't help but appreciate. 

I also liked the depth Cram created within these pages. The flashbacks in particular allow the reader a deep understanding of Sofia's background and experience while adding significant perspective to the decisions she makes later in life. The larger picture develops slowly, but like a painting, the layers build on one another, each added texture and dimension to the finished product. 

The characters themselves didn't speak to me, but that probably has more to do with my background and interests than it does anything else. Again, I have trouble with deeply personal themes and ask that be taken into account when considering this particular review. 

Pleasantly enjoyable and well-researched, The Towers of Tuscany delves into the trials faced by centuries of women as they struggle to be heard in a male dominated society. 

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Her skill with a brush might not be enough. Doubt after doubt roiled through her, weakening her knees, making her want to fall again to the earth, bury her face in the leaves, and pray for death. To go back meant Giorgio and the end of all painting. To go forward might mean imprisonment, even death. 
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Check Out all the Stops on Carol M. Cram's The Towers of Tuscany Virtual Book Tour Schedule

Monday, April 14
Review at Historical Novel Reviews
Tuesday, April 15
Review & Giveaway at Kinx’s Book Nook
Thursday, April 17
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages
Friday, April 18
Review at A Chick Who Reads
Guest Post & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Monday, April 21
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews
Excerpt & Giveaway at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time
Tuesday, April 22
Review at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Guest Post at Kincavel Korner
Wednesday, April 23
Review at Flashlight Commentary
Interview at Oh, for the Hook of a Book
Thursday, April 24
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Interview at Flashlight Commentary
Friday, April 25
Review & Giveaway at Words and Peace

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