January 7, 2012

Book Review: THE GILDER by Kathryn Kay

BOOK DESCRIPTION:  Set against the exquisite backdrop of Florence, Italy, The Gilder is a compelling and beautifully wrought novel of secrets, friendship, betrayal, and the simple choices that change us forever . . .

In Marina Nesmith's skilled hands, even the most tarnished picture frame or objet d'art can be made perfect once again.  Her life, too, seems flawless, at least on the surface.  But more and more, Marina is conscious of what she lacks - - someone to share her joys and sorrows with, confidence in the decisions she's made, and the courage to tell her teenage daughter, Zoe, the truth about her father.

Then Marina is invited to return to Florence, where she lived years before while learning her trade as a gilder.  In those heady days, she wandered the city's picturesque streets, marveling at the masterpieces in the Duomo and the Pitti Palace.  In the church of Santa Croce, she met Thomas, an American photographer who, along with his wife Sarah, introduced Marina to a thrilling, bohemian world of art and beauty.  Through them, she also learned about love, lies, and the way one mistake can multiply into many.  Now, as her past and present collide, Marina will finally have to move beyond the intricate veneer she's crafted around herself, and find the life that she - - and Zoe - - have been looking for.

My Review
I am an armchair traveler and I am crazily attracted to books that take place in England, France and/or Italy.  So I jumped up and down to accept The Gilder for review.   And while I enjoyed The Gilder, I didn't love it the way I hoped I would.

Let's start with the good.  First, the cover.  It's just gorgeous.  I love the vibrant red of the door and shutters, I love the flowers and vines draped across the building.  It is just so European; it speaks to me and makes me want to pick up the book and delve right in.

As I mentioned above, I love books set in Europe.  The Gilder excels at this particular point, bringing Florence, Italy to life in vivid, spectacular fashion, from descriptions of the narrow streets to the architecturally stunning buildings to the breathtaking art to the mouthwatering foods.  Truly, the city of Florence should be paying Ms. Kay a commission for her selling of it as any reader will immediately want to book tickets to this incredible city after reading the book.  I know I did.  I have always wanted to visit Italy and now I am fairly itching to get on the next plane out.

Another positive point of The Gilder is main character Marina.  She is frustrating at certain points in the book, yes, but aren't all our friends at some times?  Marina is painfully real and to me, that makes her more likable.  Ms. Kay's writing of Marina is so fluid that Marina's joy at experiencing Florence the first time feels like a personal recounting - - the sights and smells almost literally come alive from the page.  Likewise, Marina's pain and tragedy are told with the frank rawness of an open wound.  I sympathized with her over her no-win situation and actually wanted to give her a hug.

Ms. Kay's writing is warm and passionate and she made me care about her characters and, again, she made Florence, Italy come alive.  It was a pleasurable few days spent with Ms. Kay and her book of this exciting, incredible city.

So why didn't I love the book?  I'm not sure exactly why.  Other than the colorful descriptions of Italy, I liked the second part of the book better than the first.  There were certain portions of the first section that dragged a little bit for me.  I am on the fence about the book's ending, which made sense but was still frustrating.

In spite of these issues, I would still recommend The Gilder for lovers of books that take place in Europe and/or books about the arts.  It's a pleasant diversion and an absolutely lovely look at Florence.

The Gilder is available for purchase at major booksellers now, including Amazon.  I am an Amazon affiliate.  If you make a purchase through my link, I will receive a small commission.  

Review copy of this book provided by the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.  In no way did the provision of the book affect the outcome of my review.

With thanks to Crazy Book Tours for including me on this virtual tour! 

Upcoming Virtual Tour Stops for The Gilder:

1/10/2012 - CelticLady's Reviews
1/11/2012 - Novel Reflections
1/12/2012 - Practical Frugality
1/14/2012 - The Bookish Mama
1/15/2012 - Sherri's Reading Jubilee
1/16/2012 - Books in the Burbs


Tales of Whimsy said...

That's my issue with traveling books, they usually end up dragging for me. Great honest review.

Petra said...

This actually sounds quite intriguing to me!

And BTW, I'd like to award you the Versatile Blogger Award! :) More info here: http://hazelthewitch.blogspot.com/2012/01/versatile-blogger-award.html