I, Mona Lisa

Written by Natasha Solomons
Review by Bridget Walsh

I, Mona Lisa is a beautiful love story. It is historical, beginning during the Italian Renaissance, and is narrated from the first-person point of view. The surprising opening of the novel informs the reader that the narrator is none other than Da Vinci’s portrait of the Mona Lisa. At first, it seemed strange to be reading from the point of view of a painting. However, I was quickly hooked. The character of Mona Lisa is strong, and in this story, she has a voice that can be heard not only by the reader, but also by a very few artists. Her creator, Leonardo Da Vinci, takes her with him throughout his life, and she witnesses his meetings with other artists, kings, and pontiffs throughout the Renaissance period. The story is narrated in chronological order, although at certain points the narrative circles back through time. This was the only aspect of the novel that I thought was not needed, as I felt it interrupted the flow. However, it certainly did not spoil my enjoyment of this unusual novel.

An aspect of the writing that is really beautiful is the use of imagery throughout. Solomons’ use of language is poetic and artistic, for example: ‘Bowls of heaped mulberries lay on the table, their seeping juices staining the wood and everyone’s mouths and blackening their lips and teeth so they leered like lepers’. Beautifully sensual descriptions bring alive the Italian countryside, and the cultural world during the Renaissance and beyond. Reading this novel was a fascinating way to learn about Da Vinci’s close associates, and his competitors, for example, Michelangelo. This is a beautiful love story, begun in the 16th century, about the enduring relationship between the artist and his creation. Also, it is a love story to art and artists.