The Scribe of Siena

Neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato has always been a deeply empathetic person. But when she begins having sudden, deeply emotional reactions while performing surgery, she worries that her new sensitivity will interfere with her job. As she plans a long-overdue vacation to visit her brother, Ben, in Italy, she receives news of his unexpected death. As the sole beneficiary of his estate, Beatrice boards her flight to Siena, saddened but eager to explore the city Ben loved. Her story unfolds in two widely separated time periods--and with rich detail--in Melodie Winawer's debut novel, The Scribe of Siena.

Grieving Ben's death but captivated by his city, Beatrice digs into his scholarly research on Siena during the Plague. In the process, she discovers the journal of a medieval artist, Gabriele Beltrano Accorsi, who painted several frescoes on the facade of Siena's Duomo. Slipping into the church one day, Beatrice is abruptly transported to 14th-century Siena--months away from the advent of the Plague, and soon is face to face with Accorsi himself.

She builds a few cherished friendships and even falls in love with Gabriele, the painter--but she misses her own century, and has no idea how to return there. Meanwhile, a vicious conspiracy by Florentine and Sienese noblemen threatens to wipe out Siena completely. Winawer renders her story in compelling detail, in Beatrice's whip-smart, observant, often sarcastic voice. The conspiracy is vital as a plot device, but the more resonant theme is Beatrice's deep love for both her centuries and her heartfelt struggle to decide where she belongs. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

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