The Scribe of Siena (Review)

The Scribe of Siena 
by Melodie Winawer
464 pages | May 16th 2017 | Touchstone


Equal parts transporting love story and gripping historical conspiracy—think The Girl with a Pearl Earring meets Outlander—debut author Melodie Winawer takes readers deep into medieval Italy, where the past and present blur and a twenty-first century woman will discover a plot to destroy Siena.

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.

Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I read the synopsis of this book, only that it sounded similar to Outlander and I knew that I'd enjoyed (am still enjoying, give me a break it's a long audio book) that story. So I figured this one would be equally enjoyable. The short, yes and no. 

I enjoyed it but I wasn't thrilled or wowed by it. Tuscany is one of my favourite regions of Italy and I was excited at the prospect of seeing a modern day woman thrown into the middle of it hundreds of years ago. That portion of it was sort of underwhelming. It felt like the historical aspect and goals of the heroine were drowned out beneath the romance. I love romance in literature, I do, but I don't like when it overshadows the plot.  

I would have loved to have seen this story without the romance and see what it could have become, or at least without much of the romance. I think the intrigue of the story drew me in had nothing to do with the romance and everything to do with the discovery of this ancient conspiracy. 

I definitely recommend reading it. It was enjoyable it just wasn't my favourite. 

Thank you to Simon & Schuster Canada for the ARC of this novel. 

Photograph © Dana Maxon
Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published forty-seven nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.

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