The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz

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The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz

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Buy The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A cracking story which seamlessly joins history and fiction to make something special. Suspend your annoyance about the lack of adequate proofreading - it's worth the effort.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 408 Date: October 2017
Publisher: Book Guild Publishing
ISBN: 978-1912083770

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When we first visit the Chiesa di Santa Maria we're in the company of Molly Cavendish who is a part-time guide at the Museo di Santa Maria, which is what the ruins of the Chiesa - a chapel - have now become. Crowds flock to see its centrepiece, a renaissance fresco with a history which grabs the attention of young and old. Molly uses the history to entertain the tourists, but there's more too it than she knows, particularly as the history of the building is also the history of the Vannini family, who helped in building the chapel some six hundred years ago and one of whose descendants is the director of the museum.

I was a little bit nervous about reading The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria: a novel about a building? How was that going to work? But, the Chiesa di Santa Maria is on the banks of the Arno in Florence and Florence has always been one of my favourite cities, so, in need of some Tuscan sunshine, I gave it a go. I'm glad I did, because it's a cracker of a story, but I have some gripes and I'll get them out of the way first.

The book needs both copy editing and proofreading, the first to remove such problems as Molly Cavendish passing exams in the 21st century when they were phased out in the nineteen eighties, or having a father who has been the local priest for decades, is a devout Catholic and married. There's also some ugly sentence structure, particularly in the early part of the book and I lost count of the omitted and misused words and grammatical errors. It was frustrating to have to reread sentences, or even paragraphs, to work out what was meant. It was annoying to have a really good story spoiled by something which could so easily have been put right.

And it is a really good story. If you can suspend your annoyance about the lack of adequate proofreading, it's worth the effort as not only the Chiesa di Santa Maria but the city of Florence is brought brilliantly to life over a period of about six hundred years, beginning with the commissioning of the building which was never properly completed, through the traumas of invasions by the Napoleonic army and the Germans in World War II and then the catastrophic flood of 1966. I came to really care about the building, which was unloved for hundreds of years, but finally came into its own.

Daniel Peltz has the academic background for the story but wears it lightly: you'll learn a lot from the book about the art and history of Florence, but you'll never feel that you're being lectured. He seamlessly joins fact and fiction and brings his characters (some real, some fictional) to glorious life, which is no mean feat when you think that much of the book is a series of interlinked short stories.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

If you'd like to know more about Florence when the Chiesa di Santa Maria was being built we can recommend The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de' Medici by Catherine Fletcher. If you're going to Italy and want to see the art as opposed to the tourist attractions then you might find 101 Places in Italy : A Private Grand Tour by Francis Russell useful, but you'll get a more comfortable trip round Florence from reading The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria.

Buy The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz at Amazon.co.uk


Buy The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Indomitable Chiesa di Santa Maria by Daniel Peltz at Amazon.com.

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