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The Lantern: A Renaissance Mystery




While searching on Amazon for some historical fiction books, I came across this one by Joanne Lewis. Set in Italy during the Renaissance, it sparked my interest as these are always my favorites! I was about to write it down on my reading list to look for it at my public library when I noticed the Kindle version was only 99 cents! How could I go wrong by buying it? So, as convenient as is possible, I downloaded it to my ipad kindle app and began my virtual journey. I have to say, I was a bit dubious about it being good since it was so inexpensive but was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a good read and kept me interested throughout!
The story goes between the past and the present and links the two stories together brilliantly. It begins with the story of a girl, Dolce Gaddi, who lived in Florence at the same time as the great architect, Filippo Brunelleschi. She studied his architecture, especially that of the great unsupported dome he built on top of Santa Maria del Fiore, the beautiful cathedral of Florence.


She learned architecture on her own and called herself an architect. Being female, though, her achievements were never acknowledged until a present day contest that strove to find the true designer of the lantern that sits on top of the dome. This is where Filippa enters, a present-day young woman who had led a rough young life, in and out of prison and drug use. All her life her Grandfather would tell her the story of the contest and both of them would study anything they could to find clues as to the existence of the young female architect whom they believed designed the lantern. Filippa travels to Florence to search for the evidence and her journey leads her on a path to find her true self.
Being a historical fiction novel, I wondered what part of this story was true, so I did a bit of my own research. Of course, everything said about Brunelleschi was pretty accurate, except for the part about him adopting a son, Andrea. I couldn’t find any evidence of this in any of my readings. And then, the fact that a girl had designed the lantern must have been fictional because there wasn’t any mention of that in any of the historical documents I read, either. Nonetheless, the description of life in Renaissance Florence was, I believe, a close approximation of how things really must have been. Ms. Lewis brings both old and new Florence to life with her vivid descriptions – you can actually feel yourself walking the streets of this very ancient town.
I can highly recommend the book and enjoyed it immensely. I did have a few moments of disconnect with the story where I felt I must have missed something along the way. But this didn’t really deter from the enjoyment of the book. I was actually sad to have it come to an end. I wanted to continue learning about the characters.