Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sold For Endless Rue by Madeleine E. Robins

Life is hard in thirteenth century Italy, and especially for women, subject to the whims of any man in their orbit.  Laura is a slave girl, captured and enslaved by the men who killed her family.  Breaking free, Laura finds refuge with a woman healer who lives alone.  Crescia takes in Laura and acts as her mentor while shielding her from the slaver who searches for her.

Laura is interested in the healing Crescia does and as the years go by, the two manage to even get her an education and entry into the famed medical school in Salerno.  Laura becomes one of the few female physicians, renowned for her skill.  Her only regret is that she has no husband or child.

Laura leaves Salerno and moves elsewhere to make her career.  When a couple moves in next door, Laura befriends the wife and shepherds her through her first pregnancy.  But her motives are not beneficent; instead she claims the baby as her own in order to shield the husband from charges of thievery.

Laura takes the baby, a girl she names Bieta, back home to Salerno.  She is determined to protect Bieta from everything she has endured and to help her to also become a physician.  But Laura forgets the lesson learned from fairy tales.  Fate will have its way, regardless of human interference.

Madeleine Robins has created a retelling of the Rapunzel fairy tale and set it in medieval Italy and a historical novel of women's lives.  Laura is a strong woman, sometimes headstrong in her determination to wrest a life for herself and do the work she loves.  Her major flaw is that she is blindsided by the effort it took to win her life and unable to see that each person must follow their own dream, not that of someone else.  This book is recommended both for readers of historical fiction and those interested in retelling of familiar old tales.

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