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Reviewed by Sarah McCubbin

In Botticelli’s Bastard, author Stephen Maitland-Lewis tells the story of Giovanni Fabrizzi, an art restoration specialist. His father passed the business on to him and now Giovanni works with his own son to cover the work in their London and Florence studios. While life has been good to Giovanni in so many ways, he struggles to find happiness and peace after his wife Serafina dies. Despite finding new love with his second wife, Arabella, Giovanni is distracted, lonely and unhappy. His depression is taking a toll on his marriage, his work and his relationships.

As he holes up in his studio one day to do some restoration work, he enters one of his locked storage areas and hears a voice. After initially panicking and fleeing, he returns to his studio to investigate. When he continues to hear the voice several more times, he realizes that a painting is speaking to him. The image doesn’t move but it talks and Giovanni finds himself talking back. Before long, they have established a bit of a relationship. As they talk, “the Count” (as Giovanni calls the painting) takes Giovanni through his past telling him all the places he has hung and about all the families that have owned him. He relays interesting bits of information gained from his fly-on-the-wall perspective throughout history. Tired of being relegated to a crate in the storage room, the painting discloses that he was painted by Botticelli and urges Giovanni to have it verified. As “the Count” is unsigned, Giovanni finds his interest piqued and does his own research to unravel the origins of the mysterious painting.

As Giovanni makes inquiries and follows leads he gained from the painting, he begins to uncover the mystery of how his own father came to own “the Count”. It leads to a family secret that intersects with Nazi Germany and its quest to steal art owned by Jewish families. The insights into the world of art restoration, authentication and history were fascinating tidbits that gave the story some legitimacy. The central theme of a talking painting did drive the story along but it felt contrived. Granted this is fiction but there were no other elements of fantasy so this stood out as unnatural and a bit forced. Overall, I did enjoy this book and would recommend it to those who enjoy historical fiction with a twist of fantasy.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Sarah McCubbin is a homeschooling and foster mom in NE Ohio where she resides with her husband and 7 children. In addition to reading great books, she enjoys gardening, traveling and blogging at Living Unboxed.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Glyd-Evans Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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