Flora Pazzi is the youngest daughter of the second most illustrious family in Florence in the late 1400s. However, when we meet her, she is toiling in the hellacious atmosphere of a goldsmith’s workshop. Signor Botticelli has come to the store to arrange for a commission, a ring for his patroness, Lucrezia de Medici. But more importantly, he has brought the news that the Pazzi Conspiracy is considered concluded, and the Pazzis are no longer a threat to the Medicis. This leads to Flora’s tale of how she went from being the daughter (though one would hardly describe her as “pampered,” given her mother’s disdain) of such a prominent family to her role as a lowly apprentice. Her enticing story begins, “It was early 1478 when my family’s fortunes ebbed, like the waters of the Arno.”
Because Flora is not considered beautiful, like her sister, or suitable for marriage, she is allowed freedoms that normally would not be possible for a young girl in her situation. She spends time in the kitchen with her nonna, and even has a chance to train with the family guard. Because we see Florence through Flora’s eyes, it is only gradually that we recognize the intrigue that is swirling around her family. When things go wrong, Flora does not hesitate to report on the violent turn of events. While limited, this perspective on the city of the time is vivid. I was completely entranced by this book, the author’s first novel. She has done a magnificent job.