The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

In YA Book Reviews on July 1, 2013 at 10:54 pm

The Smile by Donna Jo Napoli

Genre: Historical fiction

The Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world, and there has been continuous speculation about who she was and why she is smiling. Perfect starting point for a historical fiction novel, and The Smile puts forth a very convincing tale to answer those burning questions. Readers are introduced to a young Elisabetta, the daughter of a silk merchant. Even though she does not feel she is a beauty, Elisabetta catches the eye of the famous painter, Leonardo and a young Medici prince. It is the young Guiliano de’Medici who calls Elisabetta Monna Lisa and remembers her smile. Although he is the heir to the most powerful family in Florence and the two fall in love, Elisabetta’s father finds a more suitable match for his daughter in his new wife’s brother-in-law, another silk merchant.

The author provides rich details of life and events during the Renaissance, as well as some of the very real people from that era. The romantic in me would have preferred a different ending, but I give the author credit for faithfully providing an ending that was more realistic and fit with the period. Through this deeply personal story, Napoli paints a magnificent portrait of the Italian Renaissance, both tragic and triumphant. All in all, a fairly reasonable depiction of life in those times. It is definitely a good read.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Book Pairing (Historical Fiction, similar time period)Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi, an action-packed historical narrative that follows the frantic flight of a 13-year-old peasant boy across 14th-century England.

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