Buy Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries
Special: $13.60 (Regular price: $16.95)
Publisher: Lake Street Press
Reviewer: Melissa on May 31, 2010
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Have you ever been told that you couldn’t do something because of your gender? Emilia Serafini, the main character of Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries, was told that her dream of becoming a painter in the Florence school was an impossible because she’s a girl. Rather than aiming for her potential, she is told that she shouldn’t look any further than marrying her father’s friend Benozzo Balducci, a man who is 10 years her senior and loathsome to her. Around the same time, however, her mother gives Emilia an old manuscript called A Manual to the Science of Alchemy and encourages her in her quest to find an apprenticeship despite the apparent obstacles.
Often enough, I hear YA readers and bloggers complaining about the apparent lack of supportive parents in many YA novels, but I’d argue that this shouldn’t be an issue for anyone while reading Nonna’sBookOfMysteries. True enough, Emilia’s father does everything in his power to make sure she stays the course of a woman during the Renaissance. At the same time, however, Emilia is able to surround herself with a handful of individuals, including her mother, who value and help her foster her dreams. However, the author, Mary Osborne, uses the motifs of faith and doubt to help Emilia make her own choices despite the advice of those around her. In other words, Emilia doesn’t always accept the suggestions that she is given or follows it while still being unsure about its veracity.
Osborne uses motifs to discuss the key subjects of the novel, Emilia’s growth into not only an artist, but also an alchemist. If you think this means that Emilia is in the backroom late at night mixing various elements to form actual gold, then you ought to think again. Osborne presents us with a spiritual awakening into the mystic laws of alchemy that help Emilia on the path to reach her life goals. Since there is much to learn in both the artistic world of Renaissance Italy as well as the mysticism of alchemy, I really loved the prologue. The narrator detaches itself from the narrative frame and addresses the “gentle reader” as follows: “Unless you are prepared to learn the secrets of the ancient mysteries herewith contained, gentle reader, proceed no further” (xi). By making this narrative decision, Osborne achieves accuracy to the period that is important for me as a reader. This narrative trope signifies a connection with the traditional canon, even as she expands the possibilities for women in the time period. Osborne has done her homework, so readers interested in the Renaissance, alchemy or painting will get a lot from this novel.
Nevertheless, there is more going on here than only learning about history, alchemy and art. Readers of all ages – especially girls in the the tween and teen market, will get a lot out of this book. Osborne has a written a compelling novel that shows young girls that they can get past the usual excuses, like “I can’t succeed because I haven’t had the right opportunities.” Yes, it’s true that some people, like Emilia, have greater obstacles in front of them to achieve success, but this novel shows that if one continues the attempt, they will be able to push past the problems they experience along the way. What a hopeful and timeless message!
I hope that you’ve become curious about Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries and the three forthcoming novels in the Alchemy series. Why? Well, not only did I really like this novel, but also I have a couple of announcements to make. First, I will be running a contest where one lucky person in either the US or Canada will win their very own copy. YAY – I love spreading the YA book love! Second, on Saturday, June 5th, I will be posting an interview with the author. While this news might interest you, it’s even better to note that author Mary Osborne will be popping by to say hi and answer any user-submitted questions.
To enter the contest, you have to be a follower of my blog and of me on Twitter (@YABookShelf). Please leave a comment below to be entered.
CONTEST UPDATE: I’m please to announce today that my contest will have not only one, but two winners! That’s right…I’ve just learned that Mary Osborne herself will offer another copy of Nonna’s Book Of Mysteries for this competition. (Date: June 5, 2010)
Entries work as follows:
+1 Answer one of these questions: What has anyone or anything done to empower you to get you where you are today? How have your actions helped to empower others in their lives?
+1 New Twitter Follower (post your twitter name)
+3 Old Twitter Follower (post your twitter name)
+1 Tweet or RT the contest (post the link)
+1 Add this contest to your Facebook profile or page (post the link)
+3 Add this contest to your sidebar (post the link)
+5 Blog about this contest (post the link)
+10 Refer someone else to the contest (you’ll get this for each person you refer, so make sure people mention your Twitter name)
+1 Be referred by someone else and mention this in your comment
I think that’s about it. Remember, you need to post your Twitter account name and the links, so I can verify. If you don’t I won’t be able to count those entries unfortunately. The contest closes on Thursday, June 10th at 8pm EST, so make sure you get your entries in early and refer others for more chances to win! Once you read this book, you’ll want to get the other 3 novels in the series when they’re available. I will use the random number generator from Random.org to select the winner, and you’ll have 48 hours to respond to my email before I have to select someone else. Good luck!