By now, I think I’ve shown myself to be a lover of history, both real and imagined. Biographies and sweeping narrative nonfiction titles line my shelves, but historical fiction, in particular, is always on my to-read list, especially when I travel. I love reading about a place I’m experiencing firsthand. Which is why, when I recently went to Italy on vacation, Melodie Winawer’s THE SCRIBE OF SIENA was the first book in my carry-on.
Perfect for fans of OUTLANDER, THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE, and GIRL WITH A PEARL EARRING, the novel follows accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato, who travels to Siena on a whim as an attempt to process and resolve her grief after the death of her brother. One day, she stumbles across a fourteenth-century diary, written by an artist named Gabriele Accorsi and finds a picture of a woman’s face that looks nearly identical to her own.
Suddenly, Beatrice is transported back to Siena in 1347, where she meets Gabriele himself, and falls in love not only with him, but with life in the past as well. But when a deadly illness begins to emerge, fueled by a deep and dangerous conspiracy that threatens to decimate the city, Beatrice must race to stop it, and finds herself forced to decide which century she belongs in.
I’m going to keep it short and sweet here: if you’re in need of an armchair adventure with the perfect blend of history, intrigue, and romance, look no further than this. On each page, I found hints of Dan Brown, Philippa Gregory, and even Umberto Eco.
Reading this novel is more than just entertaining; it’s an experience. As Beatrice walks the city, so do you. As she eats and smells and learns about figures of the past and present, so do you. Halfway through my trip, I realized that I was spending more time finding opportunities to return to 1347 with Beatrice and Gabriele than sightseeing!
Also, I was shocked to discover that this book—so transportive and with such impressive detail—is a debut. It’s rare that an author can make medieval life seem romantic and appealing (except for maybe Diana Gabaldon), but Winawer nails it here.
As I departed for the airport, all I could think was that I wished I’d read it sooner. This epic, thrilling, and romantic journey was so vivid and exciting, I could have saved money on a plane ticket!