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Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss

Passion Blue (edition 2012)

by Victoria Strauss

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5410221,808 (3.63)1
Title:Passion Blue
Authors:Victoria Strauss
Info:Amazon Children's Publishing (2012), Hardcover, 346 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:2013, Young Adult Literature

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Passion Blue by Victoria Strauss




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I think the biggest problem with this book is that the author sets up a no-win scenario. Our main character can either give up all semblance of a "normal" life to stay in the convent where she can at least paint or she can give up painting to have a "normal" life with a guy we soon realize is a jerk. So when it gets to the end, neither option could really have been satisfying.

Which didn't bother me extremely much because she doesn't really deserve a happy ending. This is someone so dumb she spends her life savings to buy a "magic" talisman she thinks is guaranteed to find her a man to take care of her. And then even when it should be obvious the guy is a jerk, she still convinces herself he's not right up until the end.

As for the convent it seems more like summer camp or boarding school than an actual convent. The end also takes too long after we get to the foregone unsatisfying conclusion.

Overall it was competent but unsatisfying. ( )
  ptdilloway | Nov 21, 2013 |
If Megan Whalen Turner calls this a lovely read, then I'm for certain going to check it out.

ETA: So, I gave this one a go. I really wanted to like it, but the main character kept making such supremely bad choices and I kept getting embarrassed for her (trust me, this is an uncomfortable position in which to find yourself when you are empathetic person like me). The story is well-written, though, so don't let my issues keep you from giving this book a go.
  Cailiosa | Jul 25, 2013 |
Passion Blue is an interesting YA mix of historical fiction and fantasy. Granted, the "fantasy" element is less prominent than the book synopsis may lead you to believe. In fact, to those who go into this expecting fantastic magical elements you will likely be disappointed.

The story is set in Rennaissance Italy and focuses on the life of a teenage girl named Gulia. She's the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. Gulia and her mother are both servants in the nobleman's household but eventually both the nobleman and Gulia's mother die and her fate is left in the hands of her father's wife. While alive, her father had arranged a small dowry for Gulia. His wife is obviously not happy at the arrangement and twists the law to get rid of Gulia by "marrying" her of to a convent. Naturally Gulia is dismayed, but as a young girl in Italy with no family and no money, her life is not her own. She sells what little she can to purchase a magical charm to try and help change her fate but reluctantly heads off to the convent.

From the beginning, I was impressed with the vibrant writing and the portrayal of historic Italy. The descriptions of the city, the households and the social environment just felt very real and really drew me in. As the book progresses we wander from the home of a nobleman through the streets of various Italian cities into the hidden rooms and cloisters of a convent and back through the streets to the bustle of the market and the intensity of an artist studio. The many settings were each rich in description and tone.

The core storyline felt a little cheesy and definitely YA-romance in aspects. I can't fault the tone of the plot since it's not really my "cup of tea" but I did get a little annoyed at Gulia's constant pining for romance and her ongoing search for the prospective husband who would rescue her from the convent.

The book synopsis points out that Gulia's magical charm is created to help her gain her heart's "true desire." The synopsis also suggests that she might not know what that desire truly is. With that small "teaser", I was able to readily predict her "true desire" within the first few pages of the book. As a result, some of the intended tension fell a little flat for me and I had to look at Gulia's motivations and desires as laughable and unbalanced. As she continued to pursue romance I was able to predict undesirable outcomes. Even though I couldn't guess at the exact nature of the problems, I wasn't surprised at the results that came about nor at Gulia's change of heart as the problems unraveled.

Taking the romantic and magical elements out of the story, I found this to be a fun and interesting bit of historical fiction. I can't speak to the full truth of the historical elements but I felt like the story and the writing worked to support the fiction in such a way that the plot points felt believable. I really enjoyed the suggestion that the convent worked to produce the various works of art with general anonymity and lack of fame but while still being allowed to explore creative and artistic freedoms not generally provided to women of the time. I liked the competition and jealousy between the various nuns as well as between the convent and other artists in the community.

I didn't mind the "magical"/"fantasy" element but I would have either liked to have seen it expanded or minimized. While it was interesting as a superstitional element it felt like there was a nagging desire to turn the magic into a more influential piece of the plot. The novel worked fine without expanding the magic into anything more than it was but there were moments in various scenes where the magic tried to become more powerful and central to the plot but then was pulled back. This back and forth was a little confusing in trying to decide what place the magic played.

Overall, I had fun with the story. It's definitely a lighter bit of historical fiction but for the Teen/YA crowd it should be a good fit. Personally I could have done without the romance story arc but acknowledge that it did help provide additional motivation to help Gulia in her quest to find her true desire. I think this book will find a good audience in teenage girls particularly those with some interest in history or art.

3 out of 5 stars ( )
  theokester | Jul 6, 2013 |
Giulia is the illigitimate daughter of a count of Milan and a seamstress. She has lived in his house, under his protection, until his death. Now his wife is sending her to a convent instead of using the dowry her father left her to find a husband for Giulia. She seeks a talisman from an astrologer to get her heart's desire, but the astrloger warns her to be sure she knows it, or the results will go awry. Now Giulia is at the convent of Santa Marta, but things are not at all how she thought they would be. Instead of a trap, her artistic skill of drawing is cherished and nurtured in the convent painting workshop, and she may now have more freedom than she has ever had. But to be able to paint, she may have to give up her dream of a husband and children. ( )
  TheMadHatters | Apr 29, 2013 |
Review originally posted here

[caption id="attachment_3399" align="alignleft" width="200"] Image from Victoria Strauss's website[/caption]Passion Blue is one of those books that I heard about from several sources (Book Smugglers and Charlotte) and put on hold. And then it was several months later and I had forgotten all about it until it came in. At that point, I didn't remember anything about it, but when I looked at the blurbs on the back cover, I saw ones from Robin McKinley, Jane Yolen, and Megan Whalen Turner.

Basically, if I didn't love this book, I was going to declare the universe broken.

Fortunately, the universe seems to be going along about as well as it ever does. Because this book is not only awesome, it's surprising. And I am at the point where few books are actually surprising.

However, what I really liked about this book is spoilery in the extreme. So for those of you who haven't read this and are allergic to spoilers, Passion Blue is a lovely and fresh historical fiction (with a few fantastic elements), fully inhabiting its setting in Renaissance Italy. For everyone else, follow me below the jump.

Giulia is the illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman and as such her future has always been a bit tenuous. But when he dies, his wife arranges for her to be sent to a convent. Giulia, who has wanted all her life to be married and have her own house, is utterly dismayed. She is determined to change her fate, with the help of an astrologer and a spirit.

First of all, I loved the fact that Giulia really wants to get married, which is a point of view we don't see very often in recent YA fiction. Moreover, this is her heart's desire, partly because she wants to have a place of her own. In the time period and setting depicted, all of this makes total sense. And I think that it might also resonate with a surprising number of teenage girls.

Giulia is an artist--she has always loved to draw, though she's never had a teacher, and her sketchbook is her greatest treasure. When she reaches the convent, she discovers that it contains a workshop of artists, nuns who have been given an obedience* because of their artistic talents. Working there becomes her greatest joy, and over time she enters into a sisterhood of other novices and nuns.

Throughout this book, Giulia's conflict is between this world of art and sisterhood, and her heart's desire--to get married. A young apprentice offers her a chance to escape the convent, embodying her dilemma. And here's the surprising, spoilery part that made me love this book: she chooses the convent. Partly because the apprentice turns out to be a lying, thieving jerk--but that's not the way the book presents it. She chooses to come back, even though it means admitting her guilt and having to prove herself to everyone again. She chooses it because it's her true heart's desire.

And that brings me to the last thing: religious faith is presented as real and valid. It's not that Giulia doesn't struggle with her faith, or that all the nuns are there for starry-eyed reasons; she does, and they're not. But part of the resolution is Giulia's heartfelt return to faith, and repentance. While it's not preachy, I really felt like it was written in a way that was honest and respectful of religious faith and I cannot tell you how much I appreciated it.

Book information: 2012; Amazon Children's Publishing**
Book source: public library

* That's the Orthodox term; I don't remember how the book puts it, so I'm leaving it that way.
** WHAT? Do I have to like Amazon now? No...won't do it. ( )
  maureene87 | Apr 4, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0761462309, Hardcover)

When seventeen-year-old Giulia, the orphaned, illegitimate daughter of a Milanese nobleman, learns she’s to be packed off to a life behind convent walls, she begs an astrologer-sorcerer for a talisman that will secure what she’s certain is her heart’s desire: true love and a place where she belongs. But does she really know the compass of her heart? The convent of Santa Marta is full of surprises, including a workshop of nuns who are creating paintings of astonishing beauty using a luminous blue mixed from a secret formula: Passion Blue. As Giulia’s own artistic self is awakened she’s torn: should she follow the young man who promises to help her escape? Or stay and satisfy her growing desire to paint?

This richly imagined novel of a girl’s daring journey towards self-discovery transports readers into the fascinating world of Renaissance Italy where love and faith and art inspire passion – of many different hues.

Passion Blue is a Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2012

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:00:56 -0400)

In fifteenth-century Italy, seventeen-year-old Giulia, a Count's illegitimate daughter, buys a talisman hoping it will bring her true love to save her from life in a convent, but once there she begins to learn the painter's craft, including how to make the coveted paint, Passion blue, and to question her true heart's desire. Includes historical notes and glossary.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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Victoria Strauss chatted with LibraryThing members from Feb 28, 2011 to Mar 6, 2011. Read the chat.

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