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Suzy HansenThe festival of San Giovanni is what brings them all together, but it is Chiara, disarming them with her apparent freakishness, who almost destroys them (as well as much of Florence, it seems). At the center of the story, though, is the relationship of Sofonisba and Matteo, whose tragic combustion of love and lust, according to Holdstock, forms the emotional basis for Sofonisba's great painting. By the end of A Rare and Curious Gift, we do finally feel that we understand both Sofonisba and Chiara. But it's Chiara who conjures up the most moving scene in the book when she impetuously frees Paolo's collection of caged animals, leaving (fittingly enough) just one behind.
— The New York Times