Hardcover: 272 pages
Release Date: April 6, 2010
Source: Traveling ARC Tours
Synopsis: Alessandra is desperate to escape—from her stepmother, who’s locked her away for a year; from the cloister that awaits her if she refuses the marriage plans that have been made for her; from the expectations that limit her and every other girl in fourteenth-century Italy. There’s no tolerance in her village for her keen intelligence and her unconventional ideas.It's unclear whether Alessandra Giliana actually existed or not but Barbara Quick's attempt to explain who Alessandra was in her novel, A Golden Web, paints a vivid and inspirational story about a young woman who fights for her dreams at all costs. Born in an era where girls were encouraged to marry well and think of little else, Alessandra's mindset veers towards intellectual pursuits where she finds solace and fulfillment. The illusion for a better life is shattered when Alessandra is promised to a man she has never met; now, faced with sacrificing her happiness, she runs away to forge her own destiny and achieves more than she could have ever imagined.
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, distinguished 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.
Quick's writing style was perhaps my favorite aspect of this novel; she has a poet's soul, using some of the most striking metaphors to describe the feelings and actions of her characters. Her exquisite writing actually made me pause to reread certain sentences (or paragraphs) because I wanted to sink into the lyricism of her words and conjure the fantastic imagery in Alessandra's story. Alessandra herself was a sprightly character, full of charm, brimming with potential and utterly enchanting; her determination to beat the odds and study in the University of Bologna to become an anatomist--the first female anatomist, no less--had me admiring her from the very start. Her bright personality easily outshined the other characters in this story and usually I'm not fond of having underveloped characters (no matter how minor they are) but for this particular book, it fit. This story was purely Alessandra's, and whoever else was in her life only reflected how brilliant Alessandra was. The plot itself moved at a quick pace, sometimes too fast, but I could understand why; Alessandra's life was short-lived and yet there were so many pivotal events in her life that it's no surprise the author went through her life so swiftly; but even so, Quick did a wonderful job of tying everything together. The ending itself is of note: it could be described as ending abruptly (normally something I dislike) but strangely enough it didn't faze me. It worked. I've never encountered a book that made me appreciate an open ending but Barbara Quick made it work.
Beguiling, lyrical and fascinating, A Golden Web breathes life into the legend of Alessandra Giliani and even if she is only a myth...it is an inspirational one and Barabara Quick has given a fantastic rendering of this extraordinary young woman.