Waking Isabella is a beautiful tale about Nora, a documentarian, and her journey to unveil the truth behind the life of Isabella de’ Medici. Through her search, she unearths more than she planned, and must confront her own history. The story captures the lives of Nora and Isabella, and their journeys and lives are more connected than they once seemed. For readers interested in art history, historical fiction, and contemporary literature, I recommend this book.
Waking Isabella is the second fiction novel by author Melissa Muldoon that embraces her love of Italy including its culture, history, food and art.
There are two main characters at the very center of this story who live at different times. First is Nora, an academic who has recently divorced and decided to revisit Italy to film a documentary on a Renaissance princess she has been researching. From the past is the princess - Isabella - who meets her end at the hands of her husband. There are also many other wonderful characters to be found that are crucial to this tale, but these two carry the main plot.
Waking Isabella moves seamlessly from present to past and back, slowly revealing the story line by peeling back one layer at a time. Nora and Isabella's stories are in many ways parallel journeys through bad marriages as well as finding love with another. As Isabella lives in a different time, her love has to stay a clandestine affair. Divorce was not an option For Nora in the present, it is a new relationship post-divorce with an antique dealer in Italy where she is staying.
I love the way the author's writing takes the reader between past and present so seamlessly it feels like they are happening side by side. I also enjoyed the chance to learn about Italian history during several eras - the Renaissance, the German occupation and the current day. However, this isn't a history lesson. Over the course of the book the past and present story lines draw closer and closer until they meet in an ending that is the perfect period to this tale.
Waking Isabella is a story of passion, love, grief and redemption that is built upon the stories of the characters we meet - their pasts, their secrets, their insecurities and their passions. Kudos to the author on a well crafted story
Waking Isabella — 2nd Place Winner Reader Views Literary Fiction Award.