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The Gypsy Madonna


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About the Author

Santa Montefiore was born in England in 1970 to an Anglo-Argentine mother, and read Spanish and Italian at Exeter University. After a year teaching English on an Argentine estancia, she spent much of the nineties in Buenos Aires. She lives in London with her husband, the historian Simon Sebag Montefiore, and their children, Lily and Sasha. Visit Santa's website at


This melodramatic effort sticks to the successful plot formula of British novelist Montefiore's recent U.S. debut, Last Voyage of the Valentina, in which a drawing or painting leads the main character homeward in order to rediscover a mysterious heritage. When New York City antiques dealer Anouk dies, her son Mischa is astonished to learn that she has bequeathed an original Titian painting, The Gypsy Madonna, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. To understand how Anouk acquired the painting and to learn the truth about his roots, Mischa returns to the French village of Maurillac where during World War II he had endured a traumatic childhood that left him mute. Montefiore describes the French countryside in lyrical terms, but her characters are too one-dimensional to evoke much sympathy. Readers who enjoy wartime stories of France would do better to read the novels of Joanne Harris. An optional purchase for larger libraries-Loralyn Whitney, Edinboro Univ. of Pennsylvania Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information.

British author Montefiore (Last Voyage of the Valentina) offers up an uneven mix of family intrigue and international mystery in her latest. When Anouk, the ailing mother (and business partner) of Manhattan antiques dealer Mischa, donates The Gypsy Madonna, a previously unknown Titian painting, to the Met shortly before her death, Mischa is astonished; he never knew she owned the painting. After Mischa vows to discover how the artwork came into his mother's possession, the novel flashes back to his troubled childhood in postwar Bordeaux, France. He and Anouk are shunned by their fellow villagers, but after a charismatic American, Coyote, arrives and wins Anouk's and Mischa's hearts, the dashing stranger's celebrity-like status among the locals rubs off on Mischa and Anouk. The three, at Coyote's insistence, move to New Jersey, but after several years of playing house, Coyote disappears, and Mischa begins to run with a rough crowd. Graphic sex scenes add grit, but Mischa's coming-of-age mostly putters along until the book's concluding section, when Mischa's globe-trotting investigation into the truth about the painting lays bare a number of secrets. Unfortunately, the bulk of the book is an extended flashback that lacks narrative urgency. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Santa Montefiore brilliantly captures the intrigue and skulduggery of a country at war in a very absorbing romance. - Red on LAST VOYAGE OF THE VALENTINARomantics will adore this story of yearning love. - Daily Express on THE SWALLOW AND THE HUMMINEngaging and charming - Penny Vincenzi, Mail on Sunday on THE BUTTE

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