My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Read for The Book Crafters
This review contains no spoilers.
I’m not going to say that I am an expert on the Renaissance, but I am going to say that I am a pretty big nerd and a European history student to boot, and I loved this. I think I’m going to give it to my Euro teacher as a graduation present (because I am graduating and I cannot wait to get out and that needs to be celebrated).
This is the portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci that was the focal point of the book. I know to many of us – myself included – she looks less than pretty, but believe me when I sat this is beautiful for Renaissance art. I won’t talk too much about the painting, as its covered in the back of the book (and you should read that part, its wonderful!), but I will say you need to do a bit of research on her missing hands.
I loved Da Vinci’s Tiger, that’s something I cannot say enough. It was one of the three books that I bought with the gift card my BFF gave me after our mutual friend passed away, and it was nice to have something so intriguing to read for once. I love historical fiction, but as I’ve grown older and taken more history classes I’ve found it more and more difficult to read. Tiny details – like the discussion on erosion I’ll discuss in a moment – bothered me.
Erosion is mentioned in the book by Da Vinci (although he doesn’t mention it by name, he says “Just as the waterfall carved the rock over time to give birth to the riverbed.”), which bothered me because less than a week prior to reading this book I was in A.P. Euro and we watched a video about the history of erosion and how it wasn’t believed in until the 1800s. Now the word erosion (which once again is not specifically used in the book) did not until sometime between 1535 and 1545 (source). Now we all know that Da Vinci was a man ahead of his time, but I doubted the author and went to google to do some research. I was stunned by what I found (source).
He examined the motion of waves and currents, and was the first to postulate the principle of erosion: “Water gnaws at mountains and fills valleys. If it could, it would reduce the earth to a perfect sphere” (Codex Atlanticus, 185v).
So Da Vinci did know about erosion! Because he theorized it! That made me happy, because I get second hand embarrassment when authors are wrong. Kudos to you L.M. Elliott.
The book was also full of historical antidotes, such as the fact that women wore their hair in coils over their ears so that they would not be impregnated by an angel whispering into it (like with the Virgin Mary) and that since forks were introduced by Islamic Scholars, some people thought they were offensive to God. In some ways our society’s view on Islam hasn’t changed, maybe its time we worked on that.
- “Reminiscing ghosts!”
- “I had forgotten how much I hate old Catholic doctrine. If a man falls into sin that is HIS FAULT.”
- “When even I get a sex joke, its a very vulgar sex joke. Maybe a little too vulgar for Renaissance-era Florence nobility?”
- “A married protagonist is something I admit I didn’t see coming. It makes sense though, she’s 17 and this is the Renaissance.”
- “I’m not sure this is going to have a happy ending.”
- “I need to look up Lucrezia Donati, because I feel like I’ve heard of her before.”
- “Material success and piety celebrated at one party? (St. John’s Feast) Thats different.”
- “”Just as the waterfall carved the rock over time to give birth to the riverbed.” Now according to my AP Euro class canyons were believed to have been caused by God, not erosion until the 1800s.”
- “FORESHADOWING (aka I foresee death)”
- “Botticelli? Wasn’t that Barbie’s horse? (It was, I believe, Bottichelli, but I’m certain that’s not an accident.)”
- Research builds the story.
- Almost all of the characters in Da Vinci’s Tiger were real people with real historical significance. Many of the events, like the painting and the Pazzi Riots, were real and had significance to history and thereby enriched the story.
- Think about the readers.
- This goes hand-in-hand with the last point. Never forget that while many/most of your readers may not know the details of when erosion became a think, or who the Pazzi and Medici families were and why they’re important, some always will. Don’t assume everyone knows the history, but don’t bore those who do with too many explanations.