A Golden Web

A Golden Web

4.0 3
by Barbara Quick

View All Available Formats & Editions

Alessandra is desperate to escape.

Desperate to escape her stepmother, who's locked her away for a year; to escape the cloister that awaits her and the marriage plans that have been made for her; to escape the expectations that limit her and every other girl in fourteenth-century Italy. There's no tolerance in her quiet village for Alessandra and her keen

See more details below


Alessandra is desperate to escape.

Desperate to escape her stepmother, who's locked her away for a year; to escape the cloister that awaits her and the marriage plans that have been made for her; to escape the expectations that limit her and every other girl in fourteenth-century Italy. There's no tolerance in her quiet village for Alessandra and her keen intelligence and unconventional ideas.

In defiant pursuit of her dreams, Alessandra undertakes an audacious quest, her bravery equaled only by the dangers she faces. Disguised and alone in a city of spies and scholars, Alessandra will find a love she could not foresee -- and an enduring fame.

In this exquisite imagining of the centuries-old story of Alessandra Giliani, the world's first female anatomist, acclaimed novelist Barbara Quick gives readers the drama, romance, and rich historical detail for which she is known as she shines a light on an unforgotten -- and unforgettable -- heroine.

Read More

Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Alessandra Giliani, a brilliant young woman who studied anatomy in 14th-century Bologna with Mondino, the university's renowned doctor, may or may not have actually existed. Quick has made a page-turner of a story out of this scrap of history or legend, festooning it with many well-worn elements of romantic fiction. Alessandra has an unkind stepmother, she sneaks into her brother's lessons and he teaches her (secretly) how to ride and how to use a knife. She escapes from the convent to which she is sent and appears in male dress to attend lectures in anatomy at Bologna's university. A credibility-stretching number of people learn her secret, including the man to whom her family has betrothed her, also a student, and they marry while she continues both disguise and studies. The novel's end is as cliched as what has gone before-beyond introducing Giliani to modern audiences, there is little new here. While historical facts and details are incorporated, some of the naming is discordant (Nicky is not a nickname in Italy, nor is Maxie), and the entire tone is jarringly contemporary. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)
Publishers Weekly
In this historical novel about anatomist Allessandra Giliani, Alessandra dreams of investigating the inner workings of the human body and studying medicine in 14th-century Bologna. The problem, of course, is that Alessandra is a girl. In her first book for teens, adult author Quick (Vivaldi's Virgins) highlights the many obstacles that stand between Alessandra and her dreams—parental desire to marry her well, disapproval of women studying, being cloistered to protect one's virtue, the physical danger of clandestinely entering the world of men. Quick is perhaps too thorough in establishing the many walls Alessandra faces, but once Alessandra contrives to study in Bologna, the story flows quickly. Alessandra's intellectual curiosity is wonderfully depicted, her philosophical musings are entertaining, and her commitment to the pursuit of biological knowledge enlivens the plot. Quick's prose is fluid and authentic, bright and engaging. At times, this novel is predictable (there is an evil stepmother, and Alessandra dresses as a boy in Bologna), but as Alessandra's reputation builds as one of the city's most gifted students, and she gets the guy, it is ultimately satisfying. Ages 12-up. (Apr.)
Grace Cavalieri
“A Golden Web is pure gold. This is a gripping plot blessed with gifted writing.”
ALA Booklist
“Quick has crafted an absorbing story about a delightful, courageous, intelligent young woman determined to make a difference in a time when women could be burned for societal rebellion far less dramatic than acquiring an education.”
VOYA - Kim Carter
While Alessandra has always been extremely intelligent and headstrong, neither are necessarily useful traits for a young girl in fourteenth-century Italy, when women suspected of witchcraft are burned at the stake. When her father gives in to her stepmother's urging and arranges for Alessandra to be married following a year in a convent, Alessandra is determined to escape. With her older brother Nicco's assistance, rather than go to the convent, Alessandra makes her way to Bologna accompanied by her reluctant nanny. There, posing as a young man named Sandro, she studies medicine and anatomy, quickly becoming known for her gifted abilities as an anatomist. As Alessandra's time is in Bologna is coming to an end, she finds surprising support and assistance from a most unexpected companion. While the author's note explains how she "found Alessandra Giliani by accident" in the course of other research, she also explains that whether Giliani truly existed is a subject of some "academic controversy." Thus, Giliani may or may not have been one of the earliest female anatomists. Likewise, while the reconstruction of this slice of life in fourteenth-century Italy has a substantive research base, many of the details, particularly human reactions, can only be imagined. A Golden Web is an engrossing story of a courageous young woman, despite some Cinderella elements that belie the very real and life-threatening social realities of the time period. Reviewer: Kim Carter
VOYA - Hattie Stiles
Barbara Quick's writing is detailed and unique. She describes the time period through the characters' dialogue and thoughts so that the reader feels like he or she is in fourteenth-century Italy. She helps catapult the reader to the setting by using language and expressions from that era. The dialogue between characters, however, seems too young. Somehow, the writing and the time period seem more sophisticated than the characters. Also, some parts are overly descriptive, which makes the story line just too slow. Someone who enjoys history might like this book. Reviewer: Hattie Stiles, Teen Reviewer
Children's Literature - Jody Little
Set in fourteenth century Italy, this story is based loosely on the life of Alessandra Giliani, a young woman with a love for learning who disguises herself as a boy to attend medical school at the University of Bologna. Alessandra is the oldest daughter of Carlo Giliani, a local bookmaker. Alessandra and her siblings grow up learning to read, unlike many other children of that era. Alessandra's mother dies giving birth to Alessandra's youngest brother, and her father remarries. When Alessandra turns fourteen, her stepmother decides that Alessandra has reached the age when she must be kept inside, away from men. Alessandra's only comfort is in books. Soon she is sent to a convent until a suitable husband can be found for her. With the help of her brother and a family employee, Alessandra plans a daring escape from the convent to the city of Bologna, where dressed in men's clothing, she attends classes at the University and boards at the home of a famous medical professor. In a fairy-tale twist, she falls in love with another medical student who turns out to be the very man her father has chosen to be her husband. Historical fiction fans will enjoy the backdrop of fourteenth-century Italy with the growing disciplines of medicine and book printing as well as the place of women in this culture and era. Reviewer: Jody Little
School Library Journal
Gr 6 Up—By age 12, Alessandra Giliani has learned that "half the trick of being a smart girl is learning how to hide it," for fear of being branded a witch. Set in 14th-century Italy, A Golden Web follows her as she ditches the trappings of her wealthy family and retires to a convent to avoid marriage at age 15. Alessandra has a love of science and finds herself "excited by things that no girl has the right or need to know." With the help of her older brother, she leaves the convent disguised as Sandro, a young medical student, and engages in the fledgling study of anatomy in Bologna. Sandro is quickly seen as a brilliant student, and she becomes a prosector. After overcoming her initial squeamishness, she devotes herself to dissection and the study of the human body, not only with the close observance of corpses, but also by reading the few available books and venturing into the midwives' district to learn from the "women healers" as well. Sandro's secret is threatened by a jealous student, and again when a study partner stirs romantic feelings, and the ending is not one of happily ever after. At times focused on historical detail, at others resembling a toned-down bodice ripper, this novel is a quick read for those who like romantic fiction.—Maggie Knapp, Trinity Valley School, Fort Worth, TX

Read More

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sold by:
Sales rank:
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
12 - 15 Years

What People are saying about this

Grace Cavalieri
“A Golden Web is pure gold. This is a gripping plot blessed with gifted writing.”

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >