The Scribe of Siena

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Author: Melodie Winawer
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Category: Fiction

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“Will remind historical fiction readers of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Tracy Chevalier’s Girl with a Pearl Earring Lovers of meticulously researched historical fiction and time-travel narratives will be swept away by the spell of medieval Siena” (Library Journal, starred review). “Winawer’s debut is a detailed historical novel, a multifaceted mystery, and a moving tale of improbable love Winawer has created a prodigious, vibrant tale of past and present that transports readers and fills in the historical gaps. This is a marvelous work of research and invention” (Publishers Weekly, starred review) Equal parts transporting love story and gripping historical conspiracy, debut author Melodie Winawer takes readers deep into medieval Italy, where the past and present blur and a twenty-first century woman will discover a plot to destroy Siena.Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city. After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague. Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs. The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

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About The Author

Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published forty-seven nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.


  • Gaele Hi
    AudioBook Review: Stars: Overall 3 Narration 4 Story 3 An intriguing premise where a modern-day neurosurgeon, well-respected and empathetic heads to Siena to settle her brother’s estate. Beatrice is completely absorbed and invested in her practice and her patients, but she also knows that the constant emotional outflow isn’t always healthy. While in Siena, she discovers a journal, an artist and an old conspiracy that could lead to the decline of the city Anyone familiar with European history will know that much of early Italy was comprised of small principalities, constantly at war with one another for power, lands and supremacy. With that and the post-plague rebuilding, the early years of this era were known for advancements in sciences, arts and social organizations, bringing her brother’s research about the steep decline of Siena as compared to other Italian cities after the plague outbreak in the 1300s. So with that background information available, I was curious to see just how Beatrice, formally trained in modern medicine with her attachments to all things sterile and sanitary would operate after waking in 1347. Soon she is introduced to, and falls in love with the artist Gabriele Accorsi, author of the journal, and keeper of many intriguing bits of information that explain the city’s demise. Far from finding the primitive conditions shocking, Beatrice is intrigued by the city, it’s people and finds herself immersed in the ‘simpler’ times. And here is where the story went into two vastly divergent directions that never did balance well for me. As a passionate fan of Gabaldon and the Outlander series, there was a sense of an homage, not fully flushed out in the attempt to encapsulate the magic born in the original. The romance was tepid and flat, the descriptions didn’t capture the vibrancy and life available, and my complete frustration with Beatrice’s characterization. She went from go-getting educated woman in a medical profession to this person who believed her “historic input and information’ were more important – and this is where the story completely lost me. I didn’t believe in the characters, I couldn’t find any visual imagery from the descriptions, or any light in the romance. I was left finding a confused and unsure story: whether action and adventure, romance or the growth and changes Beatrice experienced were meant to be the take-away impressions from the title. Narration for this story was provided by Cassandra Campbell and she presented the story with a flair that improved the engagement, even with a story that was struggling to engage. Her enunciation was clear, the voice of Beatrice stood out and was recognizable even as Beatrice herself had some conflicts of characterization. Italy is a fascinating place with an intriguing and often conflicted history, with names, places and traditions all having specific moments and pronumciation, and Campbell managed to smooth the flow between familiar and unfamiliar words, places and things: giving a sense that she was familiar with the text and story, and knew how to present it in the best light. Overall, the story did disappoint in many ways, as I found great disconnects between modern and traveler Beatrice, and I didn’t feel the connection between she and Gabriele as a romance of the ages, but an intriguing puzzle for her to work out. I received an AudioBook copy of the title from Simon and Schuster Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
  • BrokenTeepee
    LibraryThing Review I fell into this book and it was very hard for me to put it down. Beatrice is an accomplished neurosurgeon who lives an ordered life in New York. Her only family, her brother Ben, is an historian
  • gypsysmom
    LibraryThing Review For those people, like myself, who are waiting for the next installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series this book should fill the void nicely. The book opens in modern USA but soon moves to
  • bookczuk
    LibraryThing Review What a delightful find this secret history* was! Winawer drew me in from the get-go, much thanks to her other gig as a hysician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University
  • beckyhaase
    LibraryThing Review THE SCRIBE OF SIENNA by Melodie Winawer A 20th century neurosurgeon is transported to Siena, Italy, in 1346AD where she becomes a scribe and falls in love. That is the short story of this vastly
  • nbmars
    LibraryThing Review This historical fiction/paranormal novel in the style of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander and Connie Willis’s Doomsday Book combines art, history, romance and time travel. The main protagonist is Beatrice

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