Synopses & Reviews
"My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa. My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born..."
Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa. More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths. Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake. But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life. Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.
Praise for THE BORGIA BRIDE
"From sexual passion to mortal danger, the dramatic shift of real historical events will keep the reader turning the pages." -Philippa Gregory, author of The Other Boleyn Girl
"Entertaining." -USA Today "...a dramatic tale from a heady mix of royal power plays and passion." --Publishers Weekly
A meticulously detailed historical novel, set against the turbulent backdrop of fifteenth-century Florence, chronicles the life and times of Madonna Lisa, the mysterious woman who becomes the subject of Leonardo da Vinci's most famous and enigmatic portrait and who becomes caught up in a web of dark secrets, treachery, illicit love, and murder. Original. 100,000 first printing.
About the Author
Jeanne Kalogridis lives with her partner on the West Coast, where they share a house with two dogs. She is the author of The Borgia Bride, The Scarlet Contessa, The Devils Queen, and other dark fantasy and historical novels. Born in Florida, Kalogridis has a B.A. in Russian and a masters in linguistics, and taught English as a second language at The American University for eight years before retiring to write full-time.
Reading Group Guide
Reading Group Questions
1. Few works of art are as romanticized, celebrated, and reproduced as the Mona Lisa. How did reading this book teach you about—or change your impression of—the art worlds most famous face? Has anyone in the group ever seen it in person?
2. Beautiful, enigmatic, sly, foreboding...many adjectives have been used to describe Lisas portrait. But what words would you use to describe Lisas character? Also, take a moment to talk about her role—as an only daughter, married woman, and member of the upper class—in Florentine society. How was Lisa different from other women of her era? Do you think she was a woman ahead of her time?
3. Lisa is told by her astrologer that she is “caught in a cycle of violence, of blood, and deceit.” To what extent does Lisa let fate dictate her actions? Do you believe in fate? Discuss the themes of prophecy in I, Mona Lisa.
4. In addition to being religious, many of those we meet in the book become fanatic—and commit acts of violence to justify their beliefs. What was it that led Antonio, Baroncelli, and Savonarola to behave the way they did? Do you condone any of their actions? Do you have any sympathy for them?
5. Who do you think bears the true responsibility for the deaths of Giuliano the Elder and Anna Lucrezia? How do the various characters—from Lisa to Antonio to Lorenzo—deal with the guilt, trauma, and mystery surrounding the deaths of those they love? 6. What is significant about the third man involved in Giulianos murder? How does this element of mystery drive the narrative?
7. I, Mona Lisa is a novel about truth and beauty, art and artifice. It is also about family—in all its glory and bloodshed. How important is the notion of family to each of the main characters? Which relationships are the most “real” to you in this book?
8. Do you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words? Can a work of art—a painting, a book—ever truly capture a persons essence? Did Leonardos portrait of Lisa capture hers?
9. When Lisa views her cartoon she remarks that Leonardos “recall of [her] features is astonishing...more sacred, more profound than any image rendered by [a] mirror.” Why do you think she feels this way? Does Leonardo see himself in Lisa? What personality traits do you think they both share? 10. Leonardo is more than just an artist: He doesnt just view society from a distance; he is a member of a powerful inner circle. What does I, Mona Lisa suggest about the role and function of art during the Florentine era? Was it more or less political than it is now?
11. What, do you think, is the meaning of the last sentence of the book?