Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Review: A Place in the World by Amy Maroney

A Place in the World by Amy Maroney (2019)

A Place in the World wraps up Amy Maroney's historical fiction series about a female Renaissance artist and the modern-day art historian on her trail. The story throughout the series moves between Mira, the Renaissance artist, to her modern-day counterpart, art historian Zari Durrell. Most of the action of Mira’s story takes place in the Pyrenees, along the pilgrim’s route of Camino de Santiago.

Mira was born into dangerous circumstances and her mother named her Miramonde, "one who sees the world." Growing up, she became known as Mira and set out to fulfill the promise of her name. She makes an admirable heroine, overcoming obstacles, dangers, and heartbreak that would challenge the most formidable spirit. Zari shares the same impulsive, curious nature and strong moral compass. The dual story line works well.

The series was inspired by a 500-year-old portrait of a mysterious woman at Oxford University attributed to female artist Caterina van Hemessen. Maroney wove historical research about women artists during the Renaissance with an adventure story to shine a light on these lost artists of the 16th Century. The books also explore the technical world of art conservation, which has evolved to the point where we can see beneath layers of paint and discover truths that have been buried for centuries.

In this last book, Maroney brings Mira and Zari’s adventure to a satisfying close. Like the first two books, A Girl from Oto and Mira’s Way, A Place in the World is fast-paced and the writing seems effortless. Maroney’s Miramonde series is storytelling at its best.


Read my Rose City Reader interview with Amy Maroney here. Amy talks about her books, female artists, and what drew her to historical fiction. She also gives a list of her favorite authors and recent favorite books.

From the Publisher's Description:

1505: Pregnant and reunited with the love of her life, artist Mira survives a harrowing journey to the city of her dreams. But Bayonne is nothing like she imagined. Navigating a dangerous world ruled by merchants and bishops, she struggles to reignite her painting career. When an old enemy rises from the shadows, Mira’s life is thrown into chaos all over again—and she is faced with a shattering decision.

2016: Scholar Zari seizes the chance to return to Europe as a consultant for an art dealer. Overwhelmed by her job, she has little time to hunt for clues about Mira. But when art experts embrace a theory that Mira’s paintings are the work of a famous man, Zari must act. Racing against time, she travels to a windswept corner of Spain. What she discovers there solves the puzzle of Mira forever—and unlocks the secrets of Zari’s own past.

A thrilling tale of obsession, mystery, and intrigue, this mesmerizing saga will stay with you long after you read the last page.

Hope for the New Year!

Over on Instagram, bookstagrammers are collecting #2020hopetitles, “book titles that reflect your hopes for 2020, whether they be personal or global.”

Mine are gathered here with my favorite cuddly throw blanket and Christmas tea mug from Dallmayr’s in Munich because one of my hopes for the new year is to spend more time curled up with a good book. But that’s always my hope for the new year and I don’t know that this coming year will be any different than years past.

Of course, with the 2020 US elections looming, the new year is gearing up to be even more acrimonious than ever. Two of my choices reflect my hopes for civility in public discourse and personal relationships. I have friends all along the political spectrum, from one end to the other, and my hope is we are all still talking by the end of the year.

The first book is Culture Counts by Roger Scruton, a series of essays defending what T. S. Eliot called “the common pursuit of true judgment.” I’m reading this now to remind me of fundamentals.

The next is Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age by Sherry Turkle. My hope is we could all talk more, tweet less.

Closer to home, my personal hope is that I spend more time with IRL friends in 2020, so I included Among Friends by M. F. K. Fisher.

I added these Los Angeles and San Francisco books to reflect my hopes for my job in 2020. On January 1, California opens a three-year “window” in its statute of limitations for child sexual assault that allows victims who were abused at any time in the past to bring claims against abusers or organizations. My law partner and I are filing at least 14 new sex abuse cases against the Boy Scout next week. There will be more. Many of our clients have waited many years for this law to change. My hope is that they finally get justice and accountability for the wrongs done to them as children.

And finally, I included Walk There! because I need surgery on my foot to fix a pinched nerve. Right now, walking feels like stepping on ground glass. So my hope is to get it over soon, successfully, and with a quick recovery.

How about you? What hopes do you have for the new year? Can you find book titles that reflect your hopes? Feel free to list your own titles, in a comment here, or on your own blog, Instagram, or other social media.

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