Let me say right off that I loved The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz! It’s a wonderful blend of fact and fiction that is a must read for the historical fiction fan! This novel has everything that I love in a book: it’s set in Renaissance Italy and it has to do with a convent, nuns, monks, art, passion, romance, tragedy, ambition, greed and miracles…Oh, it has it all! It truly is a really good novel and one that will rate as one of my favorites this year.
The novel is based on the life of the painter Fra Filippo Lippi and begins in the year 1457 with the arrival of Lucrezia Buti to the Convent Santa Margherita. Her father has just passed and along with it the family fortune is gone leaving Lucrezia and her sister Spinetta no choice but to enter a convent. Now for Spinetta the convent life is perfect; it is what she wanted all along but Lucrezia is a different story; she expected to marry into a fine family and have children. The convent life is not for her and she is very unhappy.
Lucrezia had heard that there was a famous painter in Prato and already she is intrigued. She further learns that he is serving as chaplain at Santa Margherita. She sees the painting of The Coronation of the Virgin and is amazed by the beauty of Lippi’s work. Later he finds her at the altar in the chapel looking at the altarpiece he had painted and when she turns to him he is stunned by her beauty. Thus begins the story of Lucrezia becoming not only Lippi’s muse but his one great love.
Lippi wasn’t known for a polished reputation even though he was a monk. In fact he had many indiscretions and had also served time in jail. Lately he has been having trouble keeping up to all the commissions he has to paint pieces. He has no inspiration – that is until he sees Lucrezia. She will be his Madonna. He is completely taken with her beauty – he has never seen a woman so beautiful. He begins to work towards having her model for him and with the powerful friends he has, he succeeds. While things are quite innocent in the beginning, the undertones of the relationship are anything but innocent and pure.
Lucrezia feels the same about Filippo even though she feels guilty. She is fascinated by him and his work. Eventually their feelings can no longer be denied and they confess their feelings to each other. When a tragedy befalls Lucrezia, Filippo vows to marry her and protect her. He is willing to give up anything to be with her. However Filippo has this tendency to be very behind in all of his commissions and one such commission leads to trouble not only for him but Lucrezia as well.
Eventually things come at Filippo and Lucrezia from all sides. Filippo is in danger because of all he owes people and he can’t keep up with taking care of Lucrezia. Lucrezia is in danger from people in the church and is terrified. To say anymore would give away an important part of the novel so let’s just say that I was turning the pages pretty fast by this point. I needed to know how it would all turn out and I wasn’t disappointed.
I loved all the descriptions of art in the novel and it’s a new fascination of mine reading historical fiction to do with famous painters. I found it interesting that the novel was written by two best friends as well as it reads so seamlessly. The authors took what there is of Fra Filippo Lippi’s life and expanded on it and weaved in the fictional tale perfectly. I could easily see things having happened this way. The descriptions of time and place were amazing – I felt that I could have been there on the streets or in the convent experiencing their life.
The thing I love most about historical fiction is all I learn about while reading it. In The Miracles of Prato I was introduced to the famous painter Fra Filippo Lippi and learned much about convent life and all the things that make that seemingly simple world complicated. I would definitely recommend this novel especially to those who love historical fiction and art. Not to mention that the love story within the pages was a great one as well.
Be sure to check out the discussion guide for The Miracles of Prato and an interview with the authors as well as the rest of the tour stops for the novel hosted by TLC Book Tours. If you just can’t wait to read the book you can purchase your own copy here in the US and here in Canada.
My thanks…to Trish with TLC Book Tours and the publisher for my review copy of The Miracles of Prato by Laurie Albanese and Laura Morowitz.