Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Lost Madonna - Kelly Jones

The Lost Madonna
Kelly Jones


In 1999, Suzanne Cunningham gets a call from an old friend. She’s needed to fill in as an art history professor for a semester in Florence, Italy. Not a bad job if you can get it. She begins thinking of the unforgettable months she spent in Florence after her freshman year of college, in 1966. Not only was Florence the location of her first great love, and greatest heartbreak; she was in the right (or wrong) place at the right time to witness the flooding of Florence when torrential rain sent the Arno River over its banks. Although the water receded quickly, students from all over the world worked together in an attempt to save the priceless art treasures that had been damaged by the water and mud.

Doing a bit of research for her more specialized class, Suzanne comes upon an article written in the mid-80s that references a particular work, Madonna and Child, and refers to it as having been destroyed in the flood of 1966. This disturbs Suzanne, since she knows it isn’t true. Suzanne and her first love, Stefano Leonetti, worked together to restore the painting after the flood. It could just be a translation problem from the original Italian text of the article to English, but she can’t let it go. She’s determined to discover what really happened to the Madonna. And, in the process, maybe put to rest a few ghosts from the past.

For readers with even a casual interest in art or art history, this is a treat. The author effectively portrays, through extended flashbacks, the way a seemingly chance event or encounter can profoundly change the course of a life. The flashbacks are used to great effect, since the character is looking back over thirty years of life and experience, and is better able to place events in context. The search for the painting is almost inextricably tied to the search for a sort of closure to that long-ago love affair. Both are handled with equal dexterity and charm.

Rating: 8
February 2007
ISBN# 978-0-425-21419-0 (paperback)


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