This was a classic - going from the contemporary to the sixteenth century, told in alternative voices. Two very different stories of love, loss, betrayal and survival. I would say the most important feature for me was the survival. The story behind the survival was love but the most striking feature of each story was the spirit of survival.
Anna is our contemporary heroine. Moving away from a world of finance to join two friends on a long sabbatical in Venice, she is intrinsically drawn to the beauty of Venice - from its palaces to its people, from its rich history of painting as well as a deja vu pull from the past and a befriending by a famous art historian and being part of a close knit family including his nephew.
Ginevra is our sixteenth century heroine. Daughter of a doctor, she cleverly hides the fact of her father's blindness by dressing as a young man, who is his assistant and helps her father in his work for years. She is different to the usual girls of her era, bold and innovative. She is also quite willing to take a risk and will rope in her Jewish friend Debra to also take huge risks with her. Both of them pose for a painting of the Madonna with her baby as models, unknown to their respective families. A huge risk for both girls if it became known.
The story goes on in parallel lines - the troubles and heartbreak of Anna who feels betrayed by the love of her life and how she starts all over back in London, finding a totally new career path have similar reflections on Ginevra who to escape the wrath of a powerful man has to take not just herself but her husband and move far away. Her father also has to move in order to avoid being murdered.
How Anna and Ginevra find much happiness despite the heartbreak which goes before, both having to leave cities of their birth and their own families to find love and security elsewhere are very beautifully told.
I read that this is a debut novel. I do hope Ms. Redding comes up with something good to follow up on this one. It is going to be a hard act to follow!