New Book – The Madonna of the Almonds by Marina Fiorato


Publication year: 2006

This new book starts with the death of a man in battle.

The year is 1525 and the man remembers a woman Simonetta di Saronno. He doesn’t give us a name, but later when we hear Simonetta we learn that her husband was Lorenzo. They married when she was thirteen and he fifteen. They were in love and enjoyed their passion for each other. In the book she is seventeen, so in the four years they were married, they didn’t have children, but that didn’t seem to bother them as their love for each other was enough. Now that Lorenzo is gone, Simonetta is racked by misery, and all she does is sit at the window of the house she shared with her husband. Lorenzo’s squire Gregorio is the one who brought the news of her husband’s death and gave her his sword and another weapon, an arquebus.

Apart from Simonetta we are introduced to Amaria and her grandmother. Amaria is a twenty-year-old girl, curvaceous, black-haired, and a bit wild in character. In the chapter she tells her grandmother that she has seen a man that people called ‘the wild man’, and they go to find him. From Amaria’s grandmother we learn that her only son Filippo died on a battle in 1503, and around that time she found Amaria as a baby, who had been left at a well. It was common to find children left to their luck as many women found themselves with child and their men killed in the war. The grandmother decided to take in Amaria and raise her as her grandchild as she felt she was too old to be her mother. The woman loves Amaria greatly, and her only pain is that she hadn’t been able to find a man for  Amaria. The girl, now twenty, is considered quite old to be a bride, and apart from that, she is not the kind of beauty men seek, and her lack of money doesn’t make her very attractive.

The book moves back to 1503, the same year Filippo died, and we are introduced to an artist apprentice, Bernardino Luini, whose master was Leonardo da Vinci. In the chapter we learn that Bernardino is quite wild and like women too much, especially married women. In the book Leonardo is painting the Gioconda, and Bernardino has had an affair with the woman. Angry and affronted, her husband comes to find the man to da Vinci’s study, but Bernardino hides and Leonardo manages to calm the man down and tells him that Bernardino is in Venice. When the man has gone, Bernardino comes out of her hideout and Leonardo tells him that he has to go to Venice indeed as he has been assigned to paint a fresco.

Interesting start. I wonder how all these character will finally converge in the story.


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