This richly imagined novel of a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into the fascinating world of Renaissance Italy where love and faith and art inspire passion – of many different hues.
Let's just say this book kept me up into the early morning. This story follows seventeen-year-old Giulia, who is the illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Giulia doesn't have much left from her mother but a piece of an astrology reading that says she'll never wed. After her father's death, she's sent away to the convent of Santa Marta. While there she discovers a workshop of nuns who create paintings using the mysterious and beautiful blue paint: Passion Blue. Giulia longs to be a part of this workshop as she loves to draw. She finds that within the convent, this gift of hers is accepted. This makes it even harder for her to decide if she should flee or stay.
The life of a woman in the 1400s is show in rich, vivid details. Strauss did her homework! I especially loved seeing the contrasts between the nuns of noble birth next to the others. I didn't know they were separated like this!
This story swept me away to Milan, Italy. Strauss shows readers the wonders of the Italian Renaissance along with the hardships felt by women and others not of the ruling class.
Giulia is a complex character. Even though her artistic ability is seen as frivolous, she continues to draw. She longs to not be like her mother but rather be able to marry. We see how she struggles with being forced into a convent and the conflict she feels at the idea that maybe this might not be as bad as she'd feared. It seems that the convent was the only place a woman could thrive without the constraints of what society expected at that time.
There's also some intrigue going on in the convent of Santa Marta. Plus Ormanno,a mysterious cute journeyman, who promises to help Giulia escape. Add to that some 1400s girls within the convent who are cruel to those not of royal birth.
I also love the little details such as how the nuns made the paint for their paintings. Also the passion blue paint color intrigued me. I couldn't help but wonder how many other women were behind some of the great paintings in cathedrals throughout Europe. In the author's notes, Strauss does mention that her fictional character Maestra Humilita Moretti is based on a real painter nun.
Beautifully written, this YA historical will have readers follow a heroine on her journey through self-acceptance during the Italian Renaissance. A total must read!
2. Set in the Italian Renaissance
3. Coming of age story
4. Great details that bring to life 1400s Italy