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The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer falls squarely into one of my favorite genres: time travel. With a strong romantic thread to boot. Let's call it a historical romance/time travel novel because the love story takes place in Siena (Italy) in the 1300s, and the male half of the duo is like most or all romantic heros: sensitive, caring, loyal, passionate, and (possibly) worth cutting all other ties for.

This is Melodie Winawer's first novel. As a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University, Winawer has the smarts to write a novel that is imaginatively fictional, yet well grounded in research about the Middle Ages and especially about the Black Plague that decimated the world of that time.

Differing from some entries in this genre, our heroine Beatrice, a modern-day neurosurgeon, does not travel back and forth through time easily and often. Rather, she sticks around, less and less unwillingly, and becomes far more than a mere tourist. That's a huge help for uncovering evidence of a Florentine conspiracy to destroy Siena. She is also gifted with a special kind of empathy that lets her experience the mind of certain others in a direct manner.

With my particular interest in the process of creative flow, I noted this paragraph in which the love interest (a fourteenth century fresco painter) responds to Beatrice's question of whether he knows what he is going to paint before he starts:

I spend many days preparing studies before I approach the unpainted wall, and outline my intended image in red-brown sinopia before I begin to paint. But I can only plan so much. The full execution eludes me until the moment I lay pigment on wet plaster, feeling the brush move in my hand as if a force other than my own propels it. That is the moment I live for, and that I cannot explain.

Beatrice is familiar with that flow sensation from her modern profession of surgeon. And so is the author, who has said she experienced it during the process of writing this novel. The narrative flowed for this blogger too.

(c) 2017 by Susan K. Perry, author of Kylie's Heel

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