Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Signora Da Vinci by Robin Maxwell

A lie. I needed a fresh lie to help me escape the house this day. Call it "deceit," I corrected myself as I threw another log in the furnace, enduring its search blast on my face before shutting the iron door with a clank.

Title: Signora Da Vinci
Author: Robin Maxwell
ISBN: 9780451225801
Publisher: New American Library/2009
Pages: 422

This book is about Caterina, mother of the great maestro, Leonardo Da Vinci. She bore him illegitimatelly at the age of fifteen and he was taken from her soon after. To be with him in his initial years, she endured insults, indignity and abuses at the hands of the Da Vincis. When Leonardo was sent to Florence to apprentice under Verrocchio, Caterina devised a plan to be with him. Her scheme was filled with wrought and danger. If caught she would taken to be a heretic and burnt at stake. But she had to take that risk to be nearer him and also for her own sake. She was an outcast in her own village, Vinci.

Caterina has the ability to redefine herself. Her father Ernesto, made sure she is well read and also knows all about medicinal plants. She is a passionate woman, who deeply loves her son, Leonardo and living away from him is unendurable for her. Yet she wants him to excel in his life. He has great talent for art and imagination and he must pursue that, no matter what. While apprenticing under Verracchio, he meets other great masters like Botticelli.

This novel takes us to the richly cultured Florence, Rome and Milan. A love affair ensues between Lorenzo Medici and Caterina. We get to see the brilliance of Leonardo Da Vinci, a man of many talents. This story is about a mother and her son, who are very free to discuss anything and yet be a parent and a child.

This, according to the author, is a work of fiction as nothing much is known about Caterina. Maxwell built a story from whatever little she had access to, about Caterina. She used her imagination to build the character of a mother, who is always supporting of her son. There is so much of history and political facts in this book that the fiction becomes believable. That's what matters, doesn't it?