Monday, August 5, 2013

A Thing Done gets a few things done (and the author gets a gift)

Two reviews, two interviews, and a birthday present.  I don't blog often about my book, but this has been a particularly good week or two for me, so I'm going to take a brief break from the Medici series (we had just started that one here last week) and do a quick wrap-up of recent events.  We'll pick up the Medici again next week with Giovanni di Bicci. 

First, ATD received two reviews that delighted the book's humble author (that would be me).   One appeared on the website, which pleased me in part because it reaches a lot of people (over 32,000 on its Facebook page alone), and even more because the people it reaches are especially interested in (and knowledgeable about) this time period.  It's very gratifying when such people enjoy my book, and I'm happy that reviewer Sandra Alvarez did.  You can read her review here.  Some of my favorite bits:
I've read a lot of historical novels over the last few years but I have to say that hands down, this one is at the top of my list. ...

The characters in the novel are complex and fascinating...  Every main character has many layers, and flaws; no one is all good or all bad and it makes for very interesting reading. ...  The book was well researched...

I had a hard time putting this book down. ... This is a must read.
In the course of the review, Sandra wrote knowlegeably about the period and the political conflicts of 13th century Florence, and it's clear that she's approaching the book from the angle of one who knows and understands the history.

Hooked on books

This was all the more enjoyable because it followed on the heels of another good review, this one on Eric Al-Mehairi's great blog, Oh, for the Hook of a Book.  (You can find that one here.)  Erin really got what I was trying to do.  Some of her insightful comments were these:
While spinning her unique tale, Tinney also focused on the social structure of medieval Florence and made the reader very aware of class distinctions and family influences....

Her use of the fool lets us into his world, the world of peasants and commoners, as well as the homes, dinner parties, and secret kitchen talks of the men, and scheming women, on higher social ground who seem repeatedly out for blood from each other. 
 And she was kind enough to describe my book thus:
...historically accurate and yet imaginatively inventive, socially thought-provoking, thrilling, and humorous!

In addition to these smile-producing reviews, I had two interviews on blogs this week.  The first was with Erin, who wrote the second review quoted above, and you can find it here.  Be warned, she asked me questions about medieval music and performers, so it is lengthy!  Erin's questions were thought-provoking.

The second interview, with David William Wilkins, appeared on his blog The Things That Catch My Eye.  It can be found here.  David's interview gave me the opportunity to post an excerpt, and also to talk a bit about what I'm working on now and what's coming up next.

And the fifth really great thing that happened, along with all of the above activity, is that my amazing husband gave me a birthday gift - a research book I have been coveting for months.  Years, maybe.  It's an illustrated copy of Giovanni Villani's Nuova Cronica, a history of Florence, composed around the middle of the 14th century.  The richly illuminated and illustrated manuscript is in the Vatican Library, ms. Chigiano L VIII 296, and this volume, Il Villani Illustrato, contains 253 images from the manuscript, some page facsimiles, and fascinating articles on heraldry, politics, weapons, places, and the history alluded to in Villani's work. 

The editor is Dr. Chiara Frugoni, an Italian scholar and historian who has written on such topics as the Italian middle ages, medieval inventions, Saints Francis and Claire of Assisi, and 13th century Italian art.  Only two years ago she made a significant find in a fresco in the Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, which I may blog about another time.

It wasn't easy to find this book (thank you, Amazon Canada!).  It was expensive, and it had to be shipped from Italy.  It was totally worth it.  I had seen (and if you read this blog regularly, you also will have seen) quite a few illustrations from this manuscript, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.  But now I have more.  Lots more.  Let me show you a few of them, just to whet your appetite:

Giovanni Villani

Here's Giovanni Villani himself.  Florence lost this gifted (if not always nonpartisan) historian in the terrible Black Death of 1348, but his brother, and later his brother's son, took over the work and continued Giovanni's chronicle.  (All of the parts I have used, though, come from Giovanni's own work.)

Have you ever been to one of those historical tourist sites where they strike a commemorative coin/medal for you as a souvenir?  (I'm thinking of the Viking dig in York.)  Here's a guy striking a coin to commemorate a Florentine victory over Pisa:

Here's a depiction of an incident that will probably appear in my next book, in which a lion escapes from the place where the city's lions (kept as symbols of the city) are penned.  It seizes a child, and the distraught mother attempts a rescue.

Here are some people gazing at a comet that appeared in 1264:

There's a depiction of people fighting from the tops of towers (not exactly to scale):

And here's one of the aggressors in a siege, undermining (literally) the city's walls:

Or, if battle mania and mayhem and blood and gore are more your thing, try this one:

I particularly like the woman about to drop a large rock onto the guys fighting below her window. 

I love this book!  This is going to be all kinds of fun.  Next week, back to the Medici.

Images in this post:  Book cover as displayed at top and photo of organ are our own, copyright to my husband Tim Heath; other images are in the public domain (in the case of the Villani, this follows Wikimedia Commons policy for two-dimensional images past any possibility of copyright). 


Julia H. West said...

Hurray for good reviews and a COOL present from Tim. I'm glad your fun and fascinating book is getting the recognition it deserves. Thanks for all your blog posts about a country and period of history I've never researched--they are all interesting, and often humorous, and those are the things that keep me reading.

Judith Starkston said...

I'm so pleased with all the good attention A Thing Done is gathering. Well deserved and long over due. Happy Birthday! Sounds like you received a number of great presents--of time, thought, appreciation, and book.

Tinney Heath said...

Thank you, Julia and Judith! Yep, the reviewers were generous and wonderful, and Tim really outdid himself this time, which is no small feat. Just got another very insightful reader review, too, so I'm still receiving presents as part of this extended birthday.