The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola – The most famous woman you’ve never heard of
Matta Press (2020)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (11/2020)
“The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is the latest novel from Melissa Muldoon in her distinguished collection of works featuring prominent female artists from Italian history. The opening quote, “Life is full of surprises. I try to capture these precious moments with wide eyes,” by the artist herself, sets the tone for what promises to be an unbridled adventure full of passion, love, royal court politics, obsession, murder and of course, the artworld in the sixteenth century and beyond.
Sofonisba Anguissola was a woman who dared to dream far beyond the limitations set for women during her era – truly a woman before her time. Her story demonstrates the power behind the sentiment, “anything is possible” and her achievements helped pave the way for generations of women to come. That Sofonisba is “the most famous woman you’ve never heard of” as indicated in the subtitle, is representative of the way she left her mark on the world – humbly, through hard work, humility, resilience, integrity, and respect. Through Melissa Muldoon’s exquisite rendition the world can see – 500 years later, that Sofonisba Anguissola was a true heroine and role model for all women on the road to equality.
Melissa Muldoon is known for her portrayal of strong women overcoming the odds to fulfill their dreams, and it is one of the many reasons I find her stories so delightful. The author continues to inspire women through her work with her messages of believing in yourself and staying true to your convictions. “The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is her best work yet.
“The Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola” is a bit of a departure from Muldoon’s traditional time-travel-style adventures, and I was completely captivated by her approach. In this book, Sofonisba relates the story of her colorful life to Sir Anthony Van Dyke, a Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. One of my favorite story-telling devices is when a character tells his story to another character. This tenders intimate connections with the characters and Muldoon makes it easy to imagine being in the same room as the two artists engage in a lively afternoon conversation over tea.
Sofonisba’s life is as fascinating as her character and clearly Muldoon has done her homework in terms of research. A genuine 16th century ambiance permeates the pages as Muldoon takes us on a virtual tour through the settings of King Phillip’s court in Spain, Sofonisba’s hometown of Cremona, Italy, and the island of Sicily. Also, as is representative of Muldoon’s pervious works, she infuses her own passion for art, history and Italy into this story and it’s evident though the outstanding delivery of such an intricate and engrossing tale.
Spectacular writing, intriguing art and history, inspirational characters, societal issues still relevant today – these things all combine to create a story of excellence. I was completely enthralled with Sofonisba Anguissola – my only regret was reaching the end of this story. I highly recommend “The “Secret Life of Sofonisba Anguissola: The most famous woman you’ve never heard of” by Melissa Muldoon. It’s a story of vision, strength, and determination that history and art enthusiasts, along with romance and intrigue fans will enjoy.