Reviewed by Lauren Kirk

A brilliantly descriptive novel, Signora Da Vinci was a joy to read. Since there are little to no historical facts known about Leonardo da Vinci’s mother, author Robin Maxwell is able to shape and mold Caterina as she wishes. The lack of concrete information about this woman leads to the fanciful literary interpretation of the daily undertakings of Leonardo’s young, unwed mother.

Caterina is an impressively knowledgeable, alchemist’s daughter who falls in love with a member of a prestigious local family. Of course, this bond is forbidden in the mid 1400’s, and when it is discovered that Caterina is pregnant, the shame only intensifies. She is forced to give up her son, Leonardo, almost instantly. This sets a pattern for the rest of the novel, as mother and son are constantly reuniting. The start of the novel is slightly slow, but once Caterina moves to Florence to be near Leonardo, the story moves almost seamlessly. When Caterina’s new identity comes into play, the story quickly picks up.

Signora Da Vinci places the reader right in the mix of the Renaissance, as Leonardo da Vinci blossoms, yet he does not steal the show from his intelligent, passionate mother. The bond between mother and son is strong and Maxwell’s descriptive writing is lyrical, sharp, and not at all over done. As far as historical accuracy is concerned, Maxwell does a nice job of laying out her story while keeping to the facts available to her. Facts about Leonardo are tossed in, such as his backwards writing and flying machine sketches. Prominent figures such as Botticelli and Lorenzo the Magnificent are also prominent characters in the novel. Maxwell describes adventures centered on classic religious disputes that were reflective of the struggle between the Church and the emerging discoveries of the mind.

All in all, Signora Da Vinci is an exciting, vivid read that is sure to please those that love historical fiction, and interest those who may not be avid readers of the genre.

Lauren Kirk is a freelance writer and editor.  In addition to working on her own personal writing, editing Messy Magazine, and writing for multiple sites, Lauren is also currently pursuing her MFA in English. More of her work can be found at : messymagazine.org and goldiesays.wordpress.com.