Lost in the City of Flowers is one of those modern young-adult novels in which the only thing young-adult in it is the protagonist. The writing is complex, and the themes and events are quite grown-up. The teenaged female protagonist is transported back 544 years to Renaissance Florence, Italy, when young girls were sexual toys for men.
The writing in Lost in the City of Flowers is lyrical and prosaic, but not really convincing as a first person narration by the fourteen-year-old Violet. The reader just needs to suspend their disbelief and go with it:
With the help of curiosity, clumsiness, and a tunnel, I had lost myself in Italy and in time.
Violet encounters historical personages:
- Leonardo da Vinci
- Giuliano de' (annoyingly minus the necessary de') Medici
- Lorenzo de' Medici
- Salai (out of his real time)
There is much in the book for fans of historical fiction. The era's philosophy, geography, politics, customs, fashions, food come to life. For fans of art history there are references to well-known stories relating to famous Italian Renaissance artists.
The book is divided into three parts, each part charting a major event for Violet. As the danger for Violet grows, she gives into temptations of ego and comes face to face with powerful people in the past. Powerful people wish to control and dominate, and Violet's exciting adventures come because of them.
There are some punctuation and editing errors, but not many. The map is too small, and does not accurately depict Medieval Florence. The Prologue, while attention-grabbing, is not about the protagonist, and feels, with hindsight, a writer's trick.
The first person narration by Violet, is written with some hindsight, when she returns to New York City, after her adventure is over. This ruins the major suspenseful element in the story: will Violet be able to return to her time? We know that she does, from the start, because of the narrative form, so an omniscient narrator or third-person limited might have been a better choice.
Violet encounters romance and adventure in the past. She also makes friends and experiences great sadness and some trauma. The ending comes too quickly, so we cannot explore how her experiences have changed her, or how they have helped her grow up. For a coming-of-age novel, that is strange. The stage is set at the end for more time-traveling adventures in what the author calls the History of Idan Series, so perhaps we will see Violet's growth in the next book? I hope so.
From the book's description:
Viola has always felt like she doesn’t belong. With her mother halfway around the world, her sister away at school, and her father as her only friend, she keeps to herself and only dreams of becoming an artist. The last thing a lonely fourteen-year-old girl wants for her birthday is to spend time with an old woman she doesn’t even know. And she certainly doesn’t want to travel 544 years back in time to a place she’s only read about in books.
Armed with Idan, a mysterious pocket watch, she must navigate the perilous city to find a way home before she falls victim to the threats of Lorenzo the Magnificent. For a girl that has a hard time meeting people, Viola manages to befriend the famous artist Leonardo da Vinci and gain the affections of the handsome Giuliano de' Medici.
To get back home Viola must find her voice and tap into her artistic abilities while she works in an artist’s workshop and encounters the enchanting work of some of the Renaissance’s most amazing artists.
This PBS documentary about the birth of the Italian Renaissance under the Medici family is a bit violet at times, but is an interesting recreation of the era in Lost in the City of Flowers.
Here are direct links to the book at Amazon.com:
Please visit the author's website which includes her blog.
This review is by Candida Martinelli, of Candida Martinelli's Italophile Site, and the author of the cozy-murder-mystery novel AN EXTRA VIRGIN PRESSING MURDER, and the young-adult/adult mystery novel series THE VIOLET STRANGE MYSTERIES the first book of which is VIOLET'S PROBLEM.