2 reviews

I, Mona Lisa
by Jeanne Kalogridis

Published: 2007-04-01
Kindle Edition : 544 pages
86 members reading this now
9 clubs reading this now
9 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members

"My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa. My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born…"

Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in ...

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"My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini Giocondo, though to acquaintances, I am known simply as Madonna Lisa. My story begins not with my birth but a murder, committed the year before I was born…"

Florence, April 1478: The handsome Giuliano de' Medici is brutally assassinated in Florence's magnificent Duomo. The shock of the murder ripples throughout the great city, from the most renowned artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, to a wealthy wool merchant and his extraordinarily beautiful daughter, Madonna Lisa.

More than a decade later, Florence falls under the dark spell of the preacher Savonarola, a fanatic who burns paintings and books as easily as he sends men to their deaths. Lisa, now grown into an alluring woman, captures the heart of Giuliano's nephew and namesake. But when Guiliano, her love, meets a tragic end, Lisa must gather all her courage and cunning to untangle a sinister web of illicit love, treachery, and dangerous secrets that threatens her life.

Set against the drama of 15th Century Florence, I, Mona Lisa is painted in many layers of fact and fiction, with each intricately drawn twist told through the captivating voice of Mona Lisa herself.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


My name is Lisa di Antonio Gherardini, though to acquaintances I am known simply as Madonna Lisa, and to those of the common class, Monna Lisa.

My likeness has been recorded on wood, with boiled linseed oil and pigments dug from earth or crushed from semiprecious stones and applied with brushes made from the feathers of birds and the silken fur of animals. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

From the publisher:

1. Few works of art are as romanticized, celebrated, and reproduced as the Mona Lisa. How did reading this book teach you about——or change your impression of——the art world’s most famous face? Has anyone in the group ever seen it in person?

2. Beautiful, enigmatic, sly, foreboding...many adjectives have been used to describe Lisa’s portrait. But what words would you use to describe Lisa’s character? Also, take a moment to talk about her role——as an only daughter, married woman, and member of the upper class——in Florentine society. How was Lisa different from other women of her era? Do you think she was a woman ahead of her time?

3. Lisa is told by her astrologer that she is “caught in a cycle of violence, of blood, and deceit.” To what extent does Lisa let fate dictate her actions? Do you believe in fate? Discuss the themes of prophecy in I, Mona Lisa.

4. In addition to being religious, many of those we meet in the book become fanatic——and commit acts of violence to justify their beliefs. What was it that led Antonio, Baroncelli, and Savonarola to behave the way they did? Do you condone any of their actions? Do you have any sympathy for them?

5. Who do you think bears the true responsibility for the deaths of Giuliano the Elder and Anna Lucrezia? How do the various characters——from Lisa to Antonio to Lorenzo——deal with the guilt, trauma, and mystery surrounding the deaths of those they love?

6. What is significant about the third man involved in Giuliano’s murder? How does this element of mystery drive the narrative?

7. I, Mona Lisa is a novel about truth and beauty, art and artifice. It is also about family——in all its glory and bloodshed. How important is the notion of family to each of the main characters? Which relationships are the most “real” to you in this book?

8. Do you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words? Can a work of art—a painting, a book——ever truly capture a person’s essence? Did Leonardo’s portrait of Lisa capture hers?

9. When Lisa views her cartoon she remarks that Leonardo’s “recall of [her] features is astonishing...more sacred, more profound than any image rendered by [a] mirror.” Why do you think she feels this way? Does Leonardo see himself in Lisa? What personality traits do you think they both share?

10. Leonardo is more than just an artist: He doesn’t just view society from a distance; he is a member of a powerful inner circle. What does I, Mona Lisa suggest about the role and function of art during the Florentine era?
Was it more or less political than it is now?

11. What, do you think, is the meaning of the last sentence of the book?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "I, Mona Lisa is a great example of Historical Fiction."by mpaniaguatej (see profile) 01/21/11

This novel is very well constructed. The historical background is very well portrayed and the way the author fit Mona Lisa in the plot is great.

  "Fun, historical fiction, a different perspective on art"by kdy12570 (see profile) 09/22/09

  "Great Reading"by BusyReader (see profile) 06/06/08

Everyone enjoyed this book.

  "Vivid images and riveting story"by clcizik (see profile) 04/29/07

Our group loved this book. Although it starts out slow and descriptive, it is an exciting story told with detail that makes you feel like you're there.

  "Great Story"by lerafox1 (see profile) 03/05/07

If you like Phillipa Gregory or other historical fiction, you'll enjoy this as well. The start is a bit slow but you are drawn to the main character, Mona Lisa.


  "Excellent!! Wonderful!!"by phacht (see profile) 01/25/07

I had a bit of a difficult time in the beginning of the book w/the names of some of the characters -- some were too similar and I got them mixed up.

The story developed beautifully. What

... (read more)

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