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When seventeen-year-old Giulia, the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, learns she’s to be packed off to a life behind convent walls, she begs an astrologer-sorcerer for a talisman that will secure what she’s certain is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs. But does she really know the compass of her heart? The convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises, including a workshop of nuns who are creating paintings of astonishing beauty using a luminous blue mixed from a ...
When seventeen-year-old Giulia, the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, learns she’s to be packed off to a life behind convent walls, she begs an astrologer-sorcerer for a talisman that will secure what she’s certain is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs. But does she really know the compass of her heart? The convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises, including a workshop of nuns who are creating paintings of astonishing beauty using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion Blue. As Giulia’s own artistic self is awakened she’s torn: should she follow the young man who promises to help her escape? Or stay and satisfy her growing desire to paint?
This richly imagined novel of a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into the fascinating world of Renaissance Italy where love and faith and art inspire passion—of many different hues.
Posted May 30, 2013
Historical fiction usually isn't a genre I seek out to read, but after finding out that Megan Whalen Turner, the author of The Queen's Thief fantasy series, praised it as a "lovely read," I knew I had to give Passion Blue a chance. I'm so glad I did because it was such a beautiful and vivid story.
Passion Blue centered around a young woman named Giulia, who desperately wanted a family of her own so that she could be cherished and loved. It was easy to root for Giulia. She was a wonderful character and very relatable. Who wouldn't want to be loved? And why would you deny anyone that? After she was forced to go to Santa Marta to become a nun, I loved that she didn't lose hope and did whatever she could to reach her dream. Her bravery and determination were inspiring. She wasn't perfect, though. She made naive decisions, but I really appreciate characters who are strong enough to own up to their choices and admit when they are wrong. It was great seeing her learn from her mistakes and grow tremendously as a person.
I also loved how passionate Giulia was about both having a family and creating artwork. I'm glad she didn't focus completely on one of those things. In the beginning I was all for Giulia finding love. I felt she deserved that kind of happiness because she had been alone for a long time. Plus, I love romance. It's what I always want in the books I read. But as the story progressed, I began to realize how much she deeply loved drawing and painting. Seeing as this book was set hundreds of years ago in Italy, and having an idea of what was expected of women back then, I knew she wouldn't be able to seriously continue doing artwork if she left the convent. Still, I couldn't help but hope that somehow Giulia would be able to have both things in her life.
That's another thing I liked about this book. Giulia may have wanted a family and she may have wanted to paint, but in the end, she couldn't have both. She had to sacrifice one thing in order to gain the other. It was a hard choice, but it made the story much more realistic. It probably doesn't seem like it would result in a happy ending, but I truly believe the choice Giulia made at the end is what will bring her the most joy in her life. I was in complete support of the path she chose.
Passion Blue was a vibrant story about yearning and sacrifice and discovering what is the heart's true desire. It was a very satisfying read. I think readers who love a passionate and determined heroine and who appreciate realistic stories with a touch of fantasy in a historical setting will greatly enjoy Passion Blue.
Posted November 17, 2012
I was entranced by this imaginative story set in Renaissance Italy that follows a young girl as she seeks her heart’s desire. Not only does this book focus on the fascinating subject of Renaissance painting, but it gives an intimate glimpse into the lives of women during the 1480’s and their place in the world. The beautiful writing and engaging characters and story make this a book that’s hard to put down until you’ve reached the end.
Giulia is sixteen when her stepmother decides to pack her off to the convent of Santa Marta, to spend the rest of her life in service to God. Despite the marriage dowry her father has left for her, Giulia’s dreams of marrying one day and having a home of her own are dashed when her stepmother ignores her father’s wishes and gives the dowry to the convent. She reluctantly begins her new life with strict rules, harsh discipline, and a bevy of mean girls with whom she must live and work. But Giulia wears a secret talisman that promises to lead her to her heart's desire. Given to her by a sorcerer, she believes the spirit trapped inside will be able to help her escape the convent some day.
But Giulia’s heart’s desire may not be what she thinks it is. After one of the nuns discovers a charcoal drawing among her possessions, Giulia is reassigned to the workshop where female artists are creating beautiful paintings. She is apprenticed to Suor Humilità, the convent’s master painter, and she begins to learn the craft of preparing canvases, mixing paints, and keeping the workshop neat and tidy, with the tempting possibility of becoming a painter herself someday.
Her new friends and the joy of spending her days with artists make convent life much easier, but fate intervenes and puts temptation in her path when she meets a visiting craftsman and unwisely falls for him. This sets off a chain of events that will cause Giulia to reevaluate what she really wants in life. The last third of the book is filled with nail-biting action that will leave the reader guessing which path Giulia will ultimately choose.
At the heart of it all is the mysterious paint known as Passion Blue, a deep, rich hue unlike any other, created by Humilità herself, the recipe of which is kept under lock and key and written in code so it can’t be stolen. I was fascinated by Giulia’s journey toward becoming a painter and the careful steps that are taken before one can actually pick up a paint brush. Strauss lovingly details the exhaustive process of how paint is made, the ingredients that went into paint at that time in history, and the preparations of the work surface before any paint could be applied. Even more fascinating is the role of women painters during the Renaissance.
Giulia makes mistakes of the worst kind, but she is able to learn from those mistakes and accept the consequences. For young girls today who are raised to believe they can do anything, the plight of women during Renaissance times may be hard to relate to. But Giulia is a plucky and smart heroine, and by the end of the story, manages to rise above her station. Passion Blue sends a strong message to girls to strive for their dreams, despite the expectations of society. Filled with adventure, mystery, romance, hope and joy, this book should be on every teen's reading list.
Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.