Monday, May 14, 2007

'The Gypsy Madonna' by Santa Montefiore

ISBN: 0743278895
Format: Paperback, 372pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade
Price: $15.00

Santa Montefiore says that ‘with each book I try to create a world that is exotic, sensual and full of colorful characters.’ The Gypsy Madonna, her sixth book, is no exception. From the first page to the last her words paint a picture of a time and place that is unforgettable.

The majority the of story centers around Mischa’s unhappy childhood living in a château just outside the sleepy French town of Maurilliac. His mother Anouk is a servant of the château turned hotel for wealthy guests and Mischa, only six, helps where he can. What sounds idyllic is far from it.

Everyone in the town is hateful towards Mischa and his mother and soon the reader learns why. The year is 1948, just a few years after the end of World War II, and Mischa is half French and half German. During the war Anouk had fallen in love with a German officer and they were married in secret. But once the war was over Anouk and Mischa were left on their own with the town and its people against them.

Mischa’s childhood is unhappy but with a few bright spots. An American woman who comes to Maurilliac to remember her fiancé who died liberating the town is six-year-old Mischa’s first love. The old man who cares for the vines of the château is a sort of father figure for awhile, supporting Mischa and Anouk as best he can. The one friend Mischa has from town, Claudine and her toothy grin.

Then Coyote, a charming American, is blown into town by the wind. Everything changes for Mischa and Anouk with Coyote’s arrival; suddenly the other servants in the château and the people of the town are being civil. In Mischa’s eyes Coyote is pure magic.

Coyote takes Anouk and Mischa to America with him, stealing away together in the middle of the night without any good-byes. At first their lives in America are everything they had dreamed but soon a shadow falls over this small and happy group. Mischa learns that people are not always what they present themselves to be.

Years later, with his mother's death, Mischa discovers that Anouk has given a priceless Titian to the Metropolitan Museum. But where has this priceless piece of artwork come from? Mischa decides to face the demons of his past and discover how exactly his mother came to have the Titian.

The Gypsy Madonna is a wonderful story of redemption and the fact that it is never too late to make changes in life. True love is always worth fighting for and no matter what choices a person has made they are still capable of that love. Mischa is a very human character, and there are aspects of his personality that many people could find in their own. In the end everything is wrapped up nicely and all the secondary characters are accounted for.

There is nothing I like more than finding an author that I enjoy with several books to their name. After reading The Gypsy Madonna I’ll keep my eyes open for the rest of her work.

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