Alchemy's Daughter by Mary A. Osborne
Lake Street Press
Published May 2015
Trade Paperback, 288 pages
In medieval San Gimignano, Italy, daughters of merchants are expected to marry. But Santina Pietra cares only for Calandrino, a brilliant young scholar who is preoccupied with his ancient alchemical texts.
Soon Santina meets Trotula, the village midwife, who might or might not be a "strega," a witch. Trotula challenges her to forget Calandrino and become the woman she is meant to be. Some say she is a victim of the midwife’s spell, but Santina is determined to follow in Trotula’s footsteps even as calamities strike.
A story set in medieval Italy, a strong female protagonist, midwifery, science, romance, adventure, the Black Death, betrayal, intrigue...these are just some of the elements that made me love reading Alchemy's Daughter. Santina is a great character, well-developed, strong and yet vulnerable, living in a time when science was little understood and women could be considered witches and burned just for practicing advanced medicine little understood at the time.
She is also young and in love, and we feel strongly her coming of age as she makes the bold move to defy convention and live with Trotula, a strong and intelligent woman who would become her mentor. I was totally fascinated by the midwifery practices and very impressed by Osborne's meticulous research. The author also includes a timeline of historical events, sketched maps and a glossary of the Italian words used throughout the text.
I loved Osborne's writing style, which was fluid and compelling. Through the plot, setting and dialogue, we can see that the author understood 14th century Italy with the strong influence of the Church, small village life and endless gossip. I couldn't get enough of this story as I was transported to an era in which I am glad not to have been born, especially since I had to undergo a C-section when giving birth to my children.
This story entertained me and touched me deeply as the plight of some pregnant mothers brought tears to my eyes. It made me applaud the women in the past who took a stand to help their gender and the author for writing about a young woman who chose to be different even at great cost to herself. This was historical fiction at its best and I am Osborne's newest fan. I now look forward to reading her first novel Nonna's Book of Mysteries.
To read more reviews, please visit Mary A. Osborne's page on Italy Book Tours.
Where to buy the book:
About the Author
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.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: Thanks to the author for sending me this book for review. I was not compensated in any other way, nor told how to rate or review this product.