The Towers of Tuscany, by Carol Cram, was a beautifully written book that really highlights the era in Tuscany just prior to the Renaissance period in Italy. It brings us gorgeous descriptions of the area, which is still very lovely today, and takes us back in time to when its natural vibrancy was an artist’s delight. The magnificent painter, Sophia, is the main character in the book, who though taught by trade to be a painter by her father, was not accepted as an artist for being a woman. Of course, strong women with independent outlooks who follow their dreams always make winning books for me and this offered an amazing story that I really loved.
But there isn’t only the story of her being a painter in a time period that made it difficult for women to work or be creative. There is also romance, intrigue, twists, suspense, and action. Her plot, writing intricacies, and the details of the art performed (think all those amazing Italian frescos from the medieval ages) were engaging, absorbing, and educational. Cram’s character development was emotional. I could feel how Sophia felt as all she wanted to do was be allowed to paint!! Amazing to think in our times now that a woman would not even be allowed to let her talents shine. The medieval times were depressing, from living conditions to social and societal issues, but there was also so much hidden creativity that appeared within that. Sophia’s stories is one of those lost tales that brings light to the time period. It makes me think of all the women who truly lived such things.
I also learned a lot about painting in the 14th century of Italy. This really added to the story and made it authentic. It’s a wonderful ode to women of the past, artists, and Italy. It showcases the familial control, both within a person’s family, yet also families vying for control between each other as families governed. It showed the class struggles between the rich and the poor, and I love historical novels that bring this to the forefront. It was a great viewing of the Italian countryside and a look into its past. For all that, it’s a great resource, but above that it’s an entertaining read that was hard to put down last week.
As Sophia not only endures being forbidden to paint, having her father sell what she does paint as his own, and then suffers an abusive marriage, she plans an escape. I applaud her passion and fearlessness and I think that Cram really developed the emotions very well, creating accurate and authentic feelings, and I felt connected to the story. I was really pulling for Sophia to find her happiness in life.
I love art history; it’s one of my favorite subjects, as well as medieval history. I can safely say I’ll be putting this book on my art history in fiction shelf here at home. I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves art history, art, medieval Italy, or Italian history! Superb read well-worth your time.
Publication Date: January 23, 2014
New Arcadia Publishing
Formats: Paperback, Ebook
Genre: Historical Fiction
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.
Praise for The Towers of Tuscany
“The Towers of Tuscany is a delightful escape to the Siena we all love. Carol Cram has crafted a delicious story about a strong woman torn between her secret past, her love of painting and the forbidden charms of her rich patron. Hard to resist and highly recommended!” – Anne Fortier, Author of The Lost Sisterhood and the New York Times bestseller, Juliet
“Carol Cram’s lush descriptions and intriguing characters bring this dramatic tale of medieval Tuscany to life. If you love Italian art, a feisty heroine, and a page-turning plot, you will adore this novel.” – Deborah Swift, Author of A Divided Inheritance
The Towers of Tuscany has all the elements of a wonderful historical novel―a talented, frustrated heroine, a treacherous, feckless husband, and a promise to a dying, much-loved father who orders the heroine on a dangerous mission. Carol is a first-rate storyteller. The research is well done. Every chapter displays a fine knowledge of painting technique of the 14th century, and customs and mores of the age. The details of dress, fabric, food, are flawless. The clever dialogue and fast pace make the novel zing along.” – Roberta Rich, Author of The Midwife of Venice and The Harem Midwife
“Sofia will set your heart racing as she attempts to find what we all, in our own ways, strive to seek: love, resolution, and artistic freedom. The legacy of this story will leave you yearning for more.” – Cathleen With, award-winning author of Having Faith in the Polar Girls’ Prison
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Author Carol M. Cram, Biography~
Carol M. Cram has enjoyed a great career as an educator, teaching at Capilano University in North Vancouver for over twenty years and authoring forty-plus bestselling textbooks on business communications and software applications.
She has a MA in Drama from the University of Toronto and a MBA from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Carol is currently focusing as much of her attention as she can spare between walks in the woods on writing historical novels with an arts twist.
She and her husband, painter Gregg Simpson, share a life on beautiful Bowen Island near Vancouver, Canada.
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