It also weaves together several love stories as well as a few mysteries. Nora, an assistant researcher, is a catalyst for resolving the puzzle of a painting that has been missing for decades. Set in Arezzo, a small Tuscan town, the plot unfolds against the backdrop of the city’s antique trade and the fanfare and pageantry of its medieval jousting festival. While filming a documentary about Isabella de’ Medici—the Renaissance princess who was murdered by her husband—Nora begins to connect with the lives of two remarkable women from the past. Unraveling the stories of Isabella, the daughter of a fifteenth-century Tuscan duke, and Margherita, a young girl trying to survive the war in Nazi-occupied Italy, Nora begins to question the choices that have shaped her own life up to this point. As she does, hidden beauty is awakened deep inside of her, and she discovers the keys to her creativity and happiness. It is a story of love and deceit, forgeries and masterpieces—all held together by the allure and intrigue of a beautiful Tuscan ghost.
Waking Isabella is the second fiction novel by author Melissa Muldoon that embraces her love of Italy including its culture, history, food and art.
There are two main characters at the very center of this story who live at different times. First is Nora, an academic who has recently divorced and decided to revisit Italy to film a documentary on a Renaissance princess she has been researching. From the past is the princess - Isabella - who meets her end at the hands of her husband. There are also many other wonderful characters to be found that are crucial to this tale, but these two carry the main plot.
Waking Isabella moves seamlessly from present to past and back, slowly revealing the story line by peeling back one layer at a time. Nora and Isabella's stories are in many ways parallel journeys through bad marriages as well as finding love with another. As Isabella lives in a different time, her love has to stay a clandestine affair. Divorce was not an option For Nora in the present, it is a new relationship post-divorce with an antique dealer in Italy where she is staying.
I love the way the author's writing takes the reader between past and present so seamlessly it feels like they are happening side by side. I also enjoyed the chance to learn about Italian history during several eras - the Renaissance, the German occupation and the current day. However, this isn't a history lesson. Over the course of the book the past and present story lines draw closer and closer until they meet in an ending that is the perfect period to this tale.
Waking Isabella is a story of passion, love, grief and redemption that is built upon the stories of the characters we meet - their pasts, their secrets, their insecurities and their passions. Kudos to the author on a well crafted story
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Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta (studentessamatta.com). Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, “Tutti Matti per l’Italiano,” and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.
Waking Isabella is Melissa’s second novel and follows Dreaming Sophia, published in 2016. In this new novel about Italy, the reader is taken on another art history adventure, inspired by Melissa’s experiences living and traveling in Italy, specifically Arezzo, as well as her familiarity with the language and art. For more information about Waking Isabella and links to Melissa’s blogs and social media sites, visit www.MelissaMuldoon.com.
As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she’d never need it again, but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That “thing” was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event. Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency—a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways. Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Waking Isabella and Dreaming Sophia. She also curates the Dreaming Sophia blog and Pinterest site: The Art of Loving Italy. Please visit the Pinterest page for pictures of Arezzo, the Giostra del Saracino, and all the places we go in Italy in both books. Visit MelissaMuldoon.com for more information about immersion trips to learn the language with Melissa in Italy, as well as the Studentessa Matta blog for practice and tips to learn the Italian language.