The Scribe of Siena: A Novel

By Melodie Winawer

Worth reading 😎

To time travel is one thing but to medieval Siena, Italy at the time of plague and political tension with rival Florence? Peril awaits.

The obvious parallels to Outlander by Diana Gabaldon have already been drawn by previous reviewers of this book and I can see why as we have a heroine who finds herself unexpectedly transported in an instant from the present day to olden times. Replace Scotland with Siena, Italy and move it further back by a few hundred years and it would appear that you have the same thing but in a different place.

But I think that Melodie Winawer's book is different enough to stand up to scrutiny in its own light. The book is concerned with Beatrice Trovato as she finds herself following in her brother's footsteps to Siena where he is a scholar of medieval history on the verge of making a groundbreaking discovery which will shed new light on the rivalry between Siena and Florence, the two big power states of the 14th century.

Once there, Beatrice time travels and then has to navigate through this new world, uncertain of how women will be treated and having nothing, except some historical research which she had just started to do before the time-travelling incident, to guide her.

Factor into this the prospect of the Black Death and knowing that Siena is particularly badly hit by this as discovered in the historical archives and Beatrice has a lot to fear. She also is inextricably linked to a painter of the time, Gabriele Accorsi and has the task of trying to save the people she loves whilst maintaining an assumed existence as a widow from Lucca, who would not be privy to any of the knowledge which she has obtained.

Winawer's narrative skips between first person where Beatrice is our guide and we follow her in her endeavours and adventures and third person where we are treated to the machinations of those who are working against Siena. This is deftly done and the plot unfolds at a good pace as a result.

Her depiction of 14th century Siena felt solid as well as the characters whom she has inhabit it. The threat of the Plague is present but there are no gory descriptions here and there is no dwelling on the horror, merely the sense of loss.

There is nothing too taxing here - a pleasant historical novel with just enough intrigue to keep me guessing, just enough danger to keep me interested and all intertwined with a love story.

Reviewed by

I am Rachel and I have a website where, amongst other stuff, I blog about books I've read. I was previously an English teacher so books have always been a big part of my life and I read many genres. I love crafts, especially knitting; travel; my kids (I suppose); and writing.

Reviewed by