The Madonna of the Almonds

The Madonna of the Almonds

3.94 (1,205 ratings by Goodreads)
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"The Madonna of the Almonds" is an unforgettable story of love and art set against the backdrop of the Italian Wars, by the bestselling author of "The Glassblower of Murano". Bernardino Luini, favourite apprentice of Leonardo da Vinci, is commissioned to paint a religious fresco in the hills of Lombardy. His eye is caught by the beautiful Simonetta di Saronno, a young noblewoman who has lost her husband to battle, and whose fortune now is gone.

Captivated by her beauty and sadness, Bernardino paints Simonetta's likeness, immortalizing her as the Madonna in his miraculous frescoes in Saronno's church. As the sittings progress, artist and model fall in love, and Simonetta reciprocates Luini's genius by creating a work of art of her own. She makes a drink for her lover from the juice of almonds - the famous Amaretto di Saronno.

As the frescoes and the liqueur near their completion, the couple's affair distils into a heady brew of religious scandal which threatens their love, and ultimately their lives. Who is the mysterious Jew with a golden hand? And how does a mute young soldier affect Simonetta's destiny?Marina Fiorato's brilliant new novel takes us on a wonderful journey with a breathtaking conclusion.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 371 pages
  • 132 x 199 x 27mm | 316g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 1905636431
  • 9781905636433
  • 291,941

About Marina Fiorato

Marina Fiorato, Venedig, studierte Geschichte, Kunst und Literatur in Oxford und Venedig. Sie arbeitete als Illustratorin, Schauspielerin und Filmkritikerin. Mit ihren Bestsellern 'Die Glasbläserin von Murano' und 'Das Geheimnis des Frühlings' begeisterte sie die Leser auch in Deutschland. Sie heiratete ihren Mann, einen englischen Filmregisseur, auf dem Canal Grande und lebt mit ihrer Familie im Norden von London.
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Rating details

1,205 ratings
3.94 out of 5 stars
5 35% (423)
4 34% (408)
3 23% (277)
2 6% (73)
1 2% (24)

Our customer reviews

I was delighted to meet Marina earlier in the year as I had so enjoyed her debut novel, The Glassblower of Murano, which I had blogged about before I met her. Lovers of historical romances will not be disappointed with her new book - The Madonna of the Almonds. It's set in Lombardy, specifically Saronno - home to the famous liqueur Amaretto, and the story behind the creation of that exotic tipple is the inspiration for the novel. In the early 1500s a church in Saronno commissioned frescoes from one of Leonardo Da Vinci's students - Bernardino Luini. Luini needed a model for the Madonna and a young widowed innkeeper posed for him - and became his lover. To thank him, she created Amaretto from apricot kernels steeped in brandy, and the legend was born. Bernardino Luini is real - his work can be seen in museums around the world, and his frescoes of the Madonna in Saronno, and the Saints in a Milanese monastery exist. The latter in particular are said to be particularly fine and equal in skill to that of his master. Apart from his art, not much is known of his life, so the author was able to create a rich narrative involving him and the Amaretto legend. The author has made the widow of this tale a young noblewoman, Simonetta, forced into straightened circumstances after her husband's premature death in battle. With no money in the coffers, she will be forced to borrow money from a Jew, but in Manodorato, she finds a friend who persuades her to try to make some money rather than borrow. She reluctantly agrees to pose for the painter, a known philanderer and unbeliever, but he falls in love with his muse and she begins to have feelings too - but she's still meant to be in mourning. A stolen kiss leads to their denouncement in front of the visiting Cardinal and Bernardino has to flee. Simonetta retreats to her villa where she finds a still and experiments with the almonds growing in her orchard - and we know where that will lead! The main story is set against a period in history where the Jews were being subjugated wherever they settled, extra-marital relationships would likely end in execution, and corrupt cardinals had their fingers in many pies. Yet (renaissance) art is a powerful redeemer; and having escaped to an abbey in Milan, Luini starts to paint frescoes of the Saints - martyrs all, and finds himself and what he must do in their agonies. Marina has created another richly imagined world and this made for an immensely satisfying comfort read - a summer bestseller for sure. Her first novel had Venice as a co-star; here, art fulfills that role admirably. Should I go to Milan, I'd love to see the Luini frescoes. The only irony though is that although we strongly associate Amaretto with almonds, the current liqueur is 'Nut-free'!show more
by Annabel Gaskell
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