Published: May 2015
Published by: Lake Street Press
Trade Paperback, 288 pages
Reviewed by Sandra Olshaski
Santina is a 17-year-old girl from the medieval town of San Gimignano, Italy. As the daughter of a prominent merchant of the 14th century, she is expected to marry. But her heart has already been given to her tutor, Calandrino. When he leaves the village in pursuit of scholarly activities, Santina is heartbroken and yearns to find a purpose in life. She becomes an apprentice to the local midwife, who may or may not be a Strega, a witch. Thus begins her adventuresome, sometimes dangerous way of life.
I learned a lot about medieval life in Italy in this book. For example, women who used herbal concoctions to heal sicknesses were suspected of witchcraft. Santina herself is accused of it when she performs a Caesarean section, saving mother and baby. Alchemy was practiced secretly in the hope of producing gold. Or was there more to it, a deeper meaning to alchemy? Could it have a symbolic meaning? In the words of Calandrino "we are never through with the process of perfecting ourselves. This is the essential task of the alchemist. Yet the most precious gold is found within the soul. True riches cannot be touched, but only felt within the heart." How romantic.
Life in Italy in the small villages was a curious combination of superstition, malocchio, the evil eye featuring prominently in it, combined with a sort of Christianity. To deal with the evil eye people would say a few incantations then recite The Lord's Prayer! The Book of Hours is referenced, a type of devotional book made especially for women, popular in the Middle Ages. These books encouraged spiritual practice, offering specific prayers to be read at various times of the day.
The glossary of medieval Italian words is helpful, as is the timeline of medieval historical events.
This story will appeal to today's teens because it deals with a strong heroine, romance, adventure, history, choices and consequences.
Note: This book is rated G.
Mary A. Osborne is the multiple award-winning author of Alchemy's Daughter and Nonna’s Book of Mysteries. A graduate of Rush University and Knox College, where she was mentored in the Creative Writing Program, Ms. Osborne is a registered nurse and holds degrees in chemistry and nursing. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as Hektoen International, Newcity, and the Examiner.com. Ms. Osborne lives in Chicago.
Connect with Mary: Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: Thanks to Laura Fabiani from Italy Book Tours for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.