New Book – The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato

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Publication year: 2010

I started this book last night, and from the first moment I was intrigued by the title.

The main character is Luciana Vetra, who is an irreverent prostitute in Florence, and not your run-of-the-mill main character. I think I’ve never seen a character like her before; she is foul-mouthed, doesn’t care to mince her words, and her manners leave a lot to be desired. Yet, I find Luciana funny and fresh.

Luciana has a rich client, Bembo, who asks her to model for Botticelli, who is painting the allegory of spring. On her way to Botticelli’s studio, Luciana is collared by a Franciscan monk, Guido,  who gives her a pamphlet about repentance and embracing a new life. Luciana behaves atrociously, swearing and shocking him with her lewd behaviour.

Once in Botticelli’s studio, Luciana poses for him. They make small talk and when she mentions Venice in comparison with Pisa, Naples, and Genoa, the painter becomes angry, but when he realizes that Luciana doesn’t know what she has said, he calms down. Before leaving, Luciana takes a parchment with a miniature of the painting she finds in a secret closet, and she leaves the pamphlet Father Guido gave her.

Here her problems start. When she returns to the apartment she shares with Enna, another prostitute, older but similar in looks to her, she hears a man’s voice. And when she calls Enna her own name Luciana, she thinks the man has confused Enna with her, and he’s asking her to give something back to him. When Luciana enters the room, she finds Enna dead, her neck slashed. It is then that Luciana knows that she’s in danger, and she realizes that the miniature she stole is the reason why Enna has been killed.

Then she goes to find Bembo, but she also finds him dead. And then as a final resort, she decides to ask for shelter to Brother Guido. At first, she lies to him, telling him that she wants to have a new life. However, when Guido finds the monk responsible for the pamphlets he gave to Luciana dead, the woman tells him everything. So they flee and take refuge in another monastery. Guido thinks that those who are after them think they know something, and the key is in the painting. So the next thing they do is to analyse the painting, trying to unbury its secret.

Such an interesting start. I love the time frame, and Luciana is such a different character. Her thoughts and words are always so irreverent and cheeky, so apart from the mystery, there is great humour in the novel. Luciana also feels a great attraction to Guido, who is an attractive man, so I imagine there might be some romance here. I really can’t wait to learn more about this time and Botticelli’s famous painting.

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