[715]: The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

A sensory overload that shows the dark romanticism of the medieval past.

The Scribe of Siena
by Melodie Winawer

Debut novelist Melodie Winawer takes us to 14th century Italy right on the cusp of the Black Plague contagion.

A neurosurgeon in the contemporary time, Beatrice Trovato never knew what was lying in wait for her when she came to Italy. Having just lost her brother unexpectedly, the decision to honour his legacy by continuing on with his work was something she inherited.  He was on the verge of discovering the genesis of the Black Plague. And because it was a blight in the history of Siena, local historians didn’t take too well on Beatrice’s intrusion. But she persevered. Especially when she discovered the journal written by a local artist from hundreds of years ago.  The journal that will transport her to the year before the spread of the Black Plague.

Set in the backdrop of a period in history ripe with conspiracy and political intrigue, The Scribe of Siena is a languid tale of time travel, medical mystery, romance, and murder. Melodie Winawer is a scholar at heart – and it shows with every delicate and intricate detail. Though at times verbose, the writing showed intelligence and industrious research. I, for one, was caught almost immediately by page one. Through her words, I felt like Beatrice seeing Italy in a way that she’s never seen before. She tasted foods that are, in a lot of ways, culinary magic in their simple, most organic form. And the way she showed how art was preserved all through these years made me want to pack a bag and book the next flight to any countries that were cradles of civilization.

Beatrice is an incredible character. She was resourceful and clever; persistent and untiring. I love her passion in medicine and in helping people. I also love her relationship with her brother who became her father figure when they both lost their parents. It was sadly cut short, but readers can tell how big of a role he played in her life. She also seems to have a knack for adapting to any situations in which she was forced. To find herself in medieval Italy and not break down in tears of desperation was admirable to me. Some may find this unbelievable but I thought Melodie has done such a great job in character development that I was convinced Beatrice was such a person who effectively compartmentalized emotions and situations that help her deal with any trauma in a calm manner. (It’s the neurosurgeon in her, I think.)

Beatrice also has this uncanny and very pronounced emphatic ability. It’s almost like a sixth sense that enabled her to detect any grave diseases in her patients that technology is, otherwise,  unable to detect. A great mystery and mysticism that only enhanced my admiration for her.

Gabrielle, on the other hand, dealt with his own grief the only way an artist know how. (He lost his wife while giving birth to their stillborn son.) He threw himself in his work and never lost faith in the Divine (as evidenced by his work). Their romance was gentle and tentative on the whole. Part of this is Beatrice’s uncertainty with her future or very distant past, as it were.

This book didn’t incite boredom. I was captivated, intrigued and for an entire weekend, completely immersed. I was curious right along with Beatrice to see a place from a different perspective. Apologies for this supremely long winded gushing. But if you’ve not the time to read this review in its entirety, then there are only two words that you need to know: READ THIS.

Read this for the romance.

Read this for a peek at a period in Italian history unlike anything you’ve read before.

Read this for Beatrice – who is easily one of the coolest, bad-ass chick I’ve read in a while.

Whichever reason you picked for trying this book on for size, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I have.

  • Beatrice sounds spectacular! I’ve not read much set in Italy, let alone any historical fiction, so I’m sure that the peek into that time period would be fascinating to read about. Add to that the fact that the story’s emotionally impactful and I’m sold!

  • beautiful review, this story looks deep, interesting and a bit intimidating? it sounds like the writing was fantastic. I am going to have to keep an eye on it when it comes out.

  • Love historical fiction so thanks for the rave review!

  • This sounds like quite the moving read Joy! I’m glad that you enjoyed it so much!

  • Ohhhh 😀 Lovely review Joy. <3 So glad you loved this book so much 😀 YAY! Maybe not for me, but you have made me so curious. Yay for awesome character. <3

  • I love the sound of this book! I think it would be perfect for so thank you for sharing your review 🙂

  • oh yes I am definitely going to grab this one up for sure. It sounds so fantastic and I love that it has some solid Italian history implemented into it as well and I always love it when it has some great details. Lovely review.

  • Greg Hill

    I wouldn’t have thought this a time travel tale to look at it! But I love the sound of it- and Beatrice does sound pretty awesome. Love the setting of 14th century Italy too. Thanks for putting this on my radar. 🙂

  • You’ve convinced me, Joy. I want this one. Italy, mystery, time travel, and great story development. 🙂

  • I saw neurosurgeon, thought SCIENCE, and now have a need to give this a go! Disease outbreaks are so fascinating (especially since I’ve had lectures on them), and combine it with a historical setting, I”M IN!

  • This one sounds interesting. Sounds like it really transports you and Beatrice sounds like an amazing character. You can safely say that I want to read this one now. 😀

  • RO

    Wow Joy! It’s not often that you give a 5 Star rating, so I know this book is over the top fabulous. Ironically, when I was a kid, I dreamed of being a neurosurgeon, however that was short-lived. lol I would not have picked this one up on my own, but I adore a well-researched novel with memorable characters, so I’ve got to grab this one! Hugs…RO

  • Karen

    Beatrice sounds awesome! The cover is beautiful too

    For What It’s Worth

  • ChristinaBookAddict

    Well, you have sold me! I love historical fiction, so I will definitely be adding this to my TBR. Fantastic review!

  • Wow, first off what an absolutely stunning cover. Secondly, this book sounds delicious — I love when scholars use their insights to write a book. Sometimes its a big miss, but then there are the stories littered with historical accuracies and beautiful writing, which sounds exactly like this book. Colour me intrigued. Lovely review, so glad you loved it! xx

  • sarabara081 @ Forever 17 Books

    Captivating, intriguing with romance – definitely traits I love in a book! Glad you liked this one!

  • Themes like this can be tricky to sell especially if you want it to be historically accurate. It’s magic when the style turns into great storytelling coz you get lots of takeaway from reading it

  • Oh wow, Joy, you made this one sound absolutely spectacular… which I am sure it is. I really like the idea of discovering 14th century Italy with such new fresh eyes and in such a captivating way. And the romance sounds like it is just as much about healing as it is about love too… this just sounds perfect for me!

  • Italian history? I’m intrigued! I’ll have to check it out. Great review!

  • shootingstarsmag

    Thanks for sharing! I do really love books that are set in different countries.


  • Oh my gosh! This book sounds absolutely fantastic. Everything about it appeals to me. Adding it to Goodreads.

  • Keertana @ Ivy Book Bindings

    Damn, you’ve sold me! I haven’t even heard of this one but I love the blend of historical fiction, romance, and a touch of something more. This sounds beautiful–I will absolutely try to get my hands on a copy for this summer! Wonderful review, dear!

  • This sounds fantastic. It must be so terrifying to be sent back in time knowing the Black Plague is on the horizon!

  • Melodie Winawer

    Thank you so much for this fabulous review! I’m so glad you love Beatrice as much as I do…

  • kindlemom1

    I love how you described this Joy! I’m going to check it out more for sure. Lovely review!

  • I’m already in love with Beatrice from reading your review, Joy. She sounds amazing and I can tell I’ll click well with her. It sounds like so much more than a romance too, which I think is great. Adding this to my library list!

  • Coolest bad-ass chick ina while?! Cool

  • Historical fiction isn’t always my thing, but I have come to trust your recommendations! So glad you had a 5 star read. I appear to be in a slump of mediocre at the moment, ha.

  • It’s great that you were that captivated with the book! I didn’t know about it

  • Having just finished a time travel book set in the late eleventh century, in England, I can just imagine how good this was! I have wanted to visit Italy anyway and this would be the way to do it. 🤗However, I would want to be long gone before the plague starts! Interesting review! Glad you loved it.