Da Vinci’s Tiger by L. M. Elliott
Synopsis: The young and beautiful daughter of a wealthy family, Ginevra longs to share her poetry and participate in the artistic ferment of Renaissance Florence but is trapped in an arranged marriage in a society dictated by men. The arrival of the charismatic Venetian ambassador, Bernardo Bembo, introduces Ginevra to a dazzling circle of patrons, artists, and philosophers. Bembo chooses Ginevra as his Platonic muse and commissions a portrait of her by a young Leonardo da Vinci. Posing for the brilliant painter inspires an intimate connection between them, one Ginevra only begins to understand. In a rich and vivid world of exquisite art with a dangerous underbelly of deadly political feuds, Ginevra faces many challenges to discover her voice and artistic companionship—and to find love.
I don’t know what bugged me more about this book, the main character or the “history” they used to tell a modern teen angst story.
Let me be fair, I got this book as a part of a YA subscription box a while ago. You don’t choose the books, and they come to you relatively fresh off the press to go with the theme of that month’s box. This book came with a cool set of magnets which I employ on a regular basis, but that’s really one of the few benefits that I got from this book.
Before we go any further, I need to point out that I’m a bit of a history snob. History is my thing;- I did my Bachelors degree with a History major and I have always had a strong appreciation for times gone past. Generally, Renaissance history isn’t my thing. I don’t see the romance in it and the great men of that era bore me to tears. But, like all human beings who can appreciate culture, I do admire the art that came out of the Renaissance.
I approached this book with a fair amount of skepticism. Marketed as a feminist leaning book – IT WAS NOT, DON’T LIE TO US- this book contradicts itself more than it has any right to do so. The most powerful line in the book was the opening line, hijacked from a pre-existing poem. It’s almost impossible to believe that the main character- the teeth grinding Ginevra- is the poet behind it.
Elliott seemed to change her mind about where this book was going about 10 times during the course of the novel. I was promised a complex and rich historical novel. That is not what I got.
Elliott has researched her subject matter… mostly. She gives us a watery and very simple story that she expects us to easily follow. This history isn’t ground breaking. This is the sort of ‘Reign’ history we are starting to see on mainstream historical dramas. I wanted a ‘Outlander’ style of history; with questions asked and things rigorously looked into. A western owned Italian chain restaurant has more connections to Italian history than this does.
It’s a damn shame because Elliott had the potential to achieve so much. Cutting away all the love-triangles, cliches, false Italiano and teen drama, there was a good solid base of a story. I wanted to know more about the Convent she grew up in. I wanted to know about her husband, when they met, what he was like actually. I wanted to see the gradual bloom of a relationship. I wanted to see a strong, time accurate woman who pushed limits.
Do not be fooled, dear reader by the blurb;- the blurb writer didn’t read the story at all and painted this book in a far fairer picture than they should have. This is pre-teen mass market angst masquerading as historical fiction. There are far better books on this era with much more grit and substance.
Don’t waste your money folks.
Read: American Hardcover edition.