by Kathleen B. Jones
CITIES OF WOMEN is a story that rejoices in the deep, lasting beauty of not only what humans create, but in the resilience of their spirits and dedication to lifting humanity through art.
At its core, the story is a mystery that pulls two women closer and closer through hundreds of years of history. The 21st century protagonist is Verity Frazier, an academic looking for not just a new project, but a new purpose in life.
During a random museum tour, she’s mesmerized by the handwritten medieval manuscripts of Christine de Pizan. More than the words, however, the history professor is captivated by the unknown “illuminator,” or artist tasked with brining each page of the book to life through borders of detailed flowers, trees and other symbols of nature depicted through brilliant colors and gold leaf that make the images glow. Verity feels sure the artist is a woman, and so begins the chase to find the illusive Anastasia.
We readers, however, are treated to walking through history with the medieval female. We first meet her as a French girl named Beatrice, who flees with her mother through the horror of the Black Death and the abuse experienced while trying to get to Paris where the girl hopes to become an illuminator. After several years of trauma, we see the young woman settle into an abbey, where she becomes Anastasia and begins her art training in earnest.
As beautifully researched and worded as the conveyance of Anastasia’s art, the book is a dream for those who love art, strong female characters, and stories about how purpose can transform the human heart.
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