In "Nonna's Book of Mysteries," author Mary Osborne tells the delightfully warm story of Emilia Serafina, a teenage girl living in the Florence of the Medicis with the very true heart's desire to become an apprenticed painter in one of the city's famed botteghe. As the career of painter usually is a vocation reserved just for men, Emilia, encouraged by Violante, her wise and resourceful mother, attempts the impossible, flouting the wishes of her more conventional and, at times unscrupulously pragmatic, father who wants only to marry her off without love to whomever would provide a financial and mercantile arrangement best suited to his long term needs. Dressing like a boy and armed behind the scenes by a book of secret hermetic knowledge handed down to her by her mother, she grinds stones to mix colors for the group of painters employed at a famous artist's workshop until gender revealed, she loses her position. Nevertheless, as in all good stories, destiny intervenes giving our heroine a second chance in an encounter and eventual employment with Makarios Levantes, a painter of icons from Constantinople.
Fighting both the convention of the times, her lack of technical experience and her own self doubt, Emilia embarks on a journey of self-discovery. With the help of her ancestor's alchemical manual, the fledgling painter recovers from each of her setbacks while sharing the magickal text with the reader. Together, reader and heroine, begin to understand the unpeeling of the onion that leads to knowledge of the self. Through her painting, Emilia feels, knows and sees her own soul; she becomes acquainted with her spirit that sparks with the creativity of the Divine. As Emilia grows throughout the pages of the novel, the reader experiences her abandoning of defensiveness and her realization that doing what one loves facilitates a sense of self that expands with greater self- intimacy.
Indeed, Osborne crafts a young adult novel that urges personal success. Finding what you love to do, specializing in and mastering a specific branch of what you do and removing the ego to promote a better world through what you do are paramount to achieving true happiness. As an application of the Law of Attraction, companionship, love and contentment follows as true knowledge banishes all doubt. The message for both teens and adults alike could not be more blatantly necessary or more charmingly delivered.
Osborne's plot flows with a steady and beautiful rhythm like the river Arno. The hum of renaissance Florence and its undercurrent of materialism and power resonates through the motivations of the various characters. The beauty of this extremely creative period in art and humanism shines through like the view from Fiesole of Brunelleschi's Duomo. Need I say more? The characters cannot fail to enfold you within their story. Above all, the interjection of the basic alchemical principles of nigredo, albedo and rubedo as a metaphor for each of our journeys to find the higher self as seen through the eyes of the neophyte Emilia provides young and old audiences a compelling and delightful read.
Bottom line? Mary Osborne portrays an eager and driven heroine in Emilia Serafina that will compel young readers to strive to fulfill their desires despite obstacles and conventions that may tell them otherwise. Renaissance Florence comes alive as does the mindset of the period's mercantile class vying for acknowledgement and esteem from powerful sponsors. Above all, Osborne provides a teaser of hermetic information (both historical and functional) that will surely propel readers to look further in their personal pursuit of the mysteries of life's journey. This reviewer will surely read the prequel, entitled "Alchemy's Daughter," with the full knowledge that another two or three days of pleasant reading is ahead. Recommended for teens and adults. Diana Faillace Von Behren "reneofc"
In Renaissance Italy, 14 year old Emilia doesn't really fit the mold of the other girls her age. While her father despairs of her ever marrying, Emilia longs to paint and be recognized like the male artist of her time. Emilia dresses like a boy just to get a chance to work under and learn from one of Italy's most revered talents. But when an accident reveals Emilia's true identity, she is fired and she is once again forced to face the fact that her dreams may be unattainable. … more
Osborne, Mary, "Nonna's Book of Mysteries", Lake Street Press, 2010. Art, Mystery and Magic Amos Lassen Emilia Serafini at fourteen years old wants is to learn to paint so that she can become an artist. However there were no painters' apprenticeships for young women don't exist in the Florence, Italy during the Renaissance. Nothing looks good for her and then she receives a book, "A Manual to the Science of Alchemy". It had once … more
Emilia's dream of becoming a painter doesn't look promising, after all, it is only the 14th century and women did not have opportunities such as this. Emilia's parents decide to let her pursue her passion and take painting lessons. The only thing is, she has to pretend that she's a he. She is emotionally shattered when her identity is uncovered and she can no longer take lessons. Her mother ends up giving her Nonna's Book of Mysteries and Emilia ends up learning a lot about … more