Publication date: May 15, 2015 by Lake Street Press
Genre: Historical Fiction/ Young Adult
Source: Publisher via Italy Book Tours
Santina Pietra is seventeen and in medieval San Gimignano, daughters of merchants are expected to marry. But Santina cares only for Calandrino, a brilliant young scholar who is preoccupied with his ancient alchemical texts.
Soon Santina meets Trotula, the village midwife, who might or might not be a strega, or witch. Trotula challenges her to forget Calandrino and become the woman she is meant to be. Some say she is a victim of the midwife’s spell, but Santina is determined to follow in Trotula’s footsteps even as calamities strike.
The setting is 14th century Italy, yet in Santina contemporary readers will discover a strong-minded young woman whose search for meaning echoes their own. Alchemy’s Daughter is the author’s second novel.
I love to read books about midwives and healers, so I was excited to read Alchemy's Daughter. I was unaware that there is another book by Mary A. Osborne, but I will be seeking it out in the near future.
At the beginning of the book, Santina is just lovesick and can't really think of much beyond Calandrino. I was worried that this was going to be constant throughout the book, but after Calandrino leaves, she does turn her focus on the many things that Trotula is able to teach her. Santina is an avid student and is a fast learner, but she lacks the patience that Trotula is trying to teach her. Santina is anxious to learn everything and will learn some hard lessons because of her lack of patience.
I really loved that there is so much attention given to the daily work, the details of daily life for Santina and Trotula and the other residents of the area. As with so many of these learned women, there are people who are suspicious and look for reasons to make accusations. I thought the author did a great job of showing the way people think and react to the unknown and what they can't explain. I also appreciated that the author set the story firmly in the historical period with plenty of historical detail which helped to make the story more authentic.
Santina works hard and tries to do what is right, but she does make mistakes - as we all do. Some of these mistakes or decisions have difficult repercussions, but Santina does her best to be strong and survive in a harsh world.
I hate to give anything away because I really enjoyed this book and I want others to be able to come to it with no preconceived expectations. There is tragedy, heartbreak, love, support, so much learning and there are some really wonderful surprises as well. There were some plot twists that I was not expecting and I loved the way the book ended. I will be handing Alchemy's Daughter to my daughters to read, and that is pretty much the best recommendation I can give it.
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