“Most importantly, you make the choice of songs you sing within the case. With your mind and gifts, it can be an exquisite litany. Sing of us. Sing of yourself. Sing of what treasure lies inside women’s hearts and minds if men but look beyond their preconceived notions. We think, we feel, we bleed when hurt. We have courage when tested. Someday men may laud rather than fear that. That is my hope.
So sing, Ginevra. Make them listen.”
Italy. 1400s. Renaissance. This is a time where artists are trying to find their muse, and bring the beauty of their subject to life, whether it’s through a painting or through a sculpture. This is the time of Donatello, Leonardo Da Vinci, and all the other greats that history has come to know about. It is in this setting, so far into the past, that history comes to life, in the eyes of one particular girl in Italian history. Her name is Ginevra de’ Benci, and this is her story.
One of the things that stands out a lot about Ginevra is her lack of fear when it comes to speaking her mind. This is clearly shown during the first chapter, while she and her friend Simonetta are watching the jousting competition. She hears some men in the audience speaking ill of her brother, calling him names and basically saying that he is a fool for spending so much money on a particular horse. She has no problem standing up to them, using her wit to give those men a run for their money. They didn’t even realize that they were insulting her brother until she spoke up. More examples of her assertive demeanor is prominent throughout the book, and it’s what makes her so easy to root for.
As a woman living in Italy during the 1400s, we see how women are treated back then if they are considered beautiful enough to win the Platonic heart of a man in high power. Simonetta was the Platonic love of one of the Medici sons, and Ginevra became the Platonic love of Ambassador Bembo. We also see that the fact that Ginevra is a poet is rare in and of itself, since there are very few – if any at all – female poets during this time period. In fact, it is one of her poems that catches the eye of Ambassador Bembo to her in the first place, although it is revealed later on in the novel that that may not have been the case. Her poems are deep, reaching into the very depths of human soul, and because she is a woman, she is sometimes afraid to show her talent to those in power. It’s with the help of her Mother Superior, Mother Scolastica, that helps her to “sing” of her talents, so that other women can be seen as more than just their beauty.
I may not be an expert in Italian Renaissance history, but I was really impressed with the attention to detail that went into this book. The author even sited all of her sources in the end of the book, as if this were a college historical essay rather than a Young Adult fictional story. It made the story seem that much more real, as if it were an autobiography I was reading rather than a work of art. That was part of the appeal to me, and I’m very glad that the author decided to write the book this way. Ginevra was a force to be reckoned with, and with the help of Leonardo Da Vinci, she became a legend that we can still see to this very day. She was a mountain tiger, and that’s what she will be remembered as.
Rated: 4/5 Stars