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A Golden Web by Barbara Quick

A Golden Web

by Barbara Quick

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  1. 00
    Pope Joan by Donna Woolfolk Cross (Caramellunacy)
    Caramellunacy: Both are stories that weave around the few bare bones facts known about women who allegedly made great contributions while disguised as men. The themes of the importance of education are similar - as is the controversy surrounding whether they actually existed. A Golden Web is about a female anatomist who made a remarkable discovery, Pope Joan about the alleged female pope.… (more)

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Based on the true story of a girl in 14th century Italy, this was a fascinating read. Alessandra wants nothing more than to study medicine, but as a female in Medieval Europe, she is not permitted to attend university. This is all about how she triumphs over the prevailing attitudes towards women and leaves her mark on the world. ( )
  TheMadHatters | Feb 27, 2014 |
The book was good but the story was predicable. ( )
  TeamDewey | Mar 14, 2013 |
A Golden Web speculates how the life of female anatomist, Alessandra Giliani, might have progressed. She was a brilliant young girl fascinated by medicine and how the human body worked. Unfortunately, she lived during a time period when it was not acceptable for women to be intrigued by such things. Her interests risked her being burned as a witch if discovered.

This fictional biography begins when Alessandra is just an infant, and ends when she is a grown woman. I really enjoyed reading about this new (to me) and fascinating character. According to the author’s notes at the end there isn’t much information about Alessandra’s life or family, but I think she did a wonderful job of piecing together what her life may have been like.

The first part of the novel, that took place while Alessandra lived at home with her family, was well paced and nicely detailed. The author took time to explore the sibling dynamic, and show the love Alessandra felt for her family. I loved this and found all of the characters absolutely endearing. Once Alessandra arrives in Bologna to study medicine things seemed to become a bit more rushed. I would have loved to see more time dedicated to her life in Bologna. I also would have liked to see more of a focus on the relationships she formed while there. It all seemed to happen so fast. Also according to the synopsis she “will find a love she could not foresee”. This had me expecting the romantic element to play a larger role in the plot than it actually did. Unfortunately, the relationship between Alessandra and her love interest lacked the development I’d hoped for.

Even with a few minor complaints I still found this book very enjoyable, and it was a very quick read that had no problem holding my interest. I just would have liked to see the author explore Alessandra’s life in Bologna more. I’d recommend A Golden Web to both adults and older teens who enjoy books based on the lives of real historical figures. ( )
  C.Ibarra | Jun 5, 2011 |
If you are a fan of historical fiction, you should check this one out. It was quick, interesting, inspiring tale of Alessandra Giliani, Italy's first anatomist (who may or may not have actually existed). Part biography, part fiction and part cinderella story, A Golden Web is a book you want to check out.

Alessandra was lucky enough to grow up in the country where she was allowed to ride, play games, study and read like a boy. That is until her stepmother deems her actions unacceptable for a women and starts the process of finding her a wealthy husband. Alessandra wants nothing less than to be married. Getting married would strip her of her freedom, and quite possible kill her in childbirth like it did her mother. What Alessandra wants is to go to Bologna to get her degree in philosophy so that she may be admitted to the school of medicine. A women studying medicine would be accused of being a witch, and quite possibly killed. But even that is not going to stop the very intelligent and determined Alessandra. She realizes that in order to get what she wants, she has to hide not only her identity, but her gender as well.

I really enjoyed this story. I loved all the characters, the plot and the realistic nature of how the time period was portrayed. I love historical fiction, and I love Italy, so maybe I'm biased... But regardless, Alessandra is a strong female character, drastically ahead of her time, and that is something alot of people can appreciate. She goes behind the backs of people she loves, risks her life, gives up comfort and domestic luxuries to transcends the limits put upon her, and prove not only what she is capable of, but what women in general can achieve.

The ending! Gosh, I'm not gonna say much about it. But wow, not what I was accepting... Not what I was hoping for... You'll see what I mean.

So in short, if you like historical fiction, try this one out. It was a very quick read and an inspirational and entertaining story. ( )
  ilikethesebooks | May 29, 2011 |
Alessandra Giliani is a fascinating figure - a brilliant young woman from the small town of Persiceto who is said to have studied medicine and anatomy at the famous University of Bologna. Alessandra risks all, disguised as a boy, to learn as much as possible - and to discover the secrets of human anatomy that might have saved her beloved mother. And all of this during the 14th century when women were not only not allowed to study, but where a knowledgeable woman lived under constant threat of being persecuted and burned as a witch.

Despite having greatly enjoyed Quick's Vivaldi's Virgins, I found this little volume a bit unsatisfying. Perhaps it is because this is the author's first foray into young adult fiction, and perhaps it is merely because so very little is known about Alessandra, but due to the lack of details of Alessandra's hardships, fears and small triumphs in her studies, I felt oddly distant from the main character.

What detail and local color Quick provides is deftly drawn, immersing the reader in the countryside of Persiceto and subtly teaching about the historical university at Bologna. I enjoyed these aspects of the account, and, indeed, of Alessandra's discovery. I also quite enjoyed the romantic aspects - Otto's friendship as well as Pierina's sweet romance with the shy, stuttering Giorgio. But there, too, the narration was sketchy.

As a quick sketch of the times and of the outlines of Alessandra's life, this works quite well. But as far as plot and character development go, I was hoping for something a bit more fleshed out.

Also posted at A Hoyden's Look at Literature. ( )
  Caramellunacy | Dec 31, 2010 |
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A beautiful baby lay in her cradle, watched over by a nanny still nursing the infant's rosy big brother.
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Alessandra is desperate to escape. Desperate to escape her stepmother, who's locked her away for a year; to escape the cloister that awaits her and the marriage plans that have been made for her; to escape the expectations that limit her and every other girl in fourteenth-century Italy. There's no tolerance in her quiet village for Alessandra and her keen intelligence and unconventional ideas.
In defiant pursuit of her dreams, Alessandra undertakes an audacious quest, her bravery equaled only by the dangers she faces. disguised and alone in a city of spies and scholars, Alessandra will find a love she could not foresee - and an enduring fame.
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In fourteenth-century Bologna, Alessandra Giliani, a brilliant young girl, defies convention and risks death in order to attend medical school at the university so that she can study anatomy.

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