Waking Isabella is an evocative tale that transports readers to 1920s Italy. Author Melissa Muldoon weaves a captivating story of passion, heartbreak and self-discovery.
The book follows Isabella d’Este, an American artist who travels to Italy to study ancient art and awaken her creative spirit. She soon becomes entangled in a romantic affair with enigmatic British painter Edward Soames and gets caught up in the rising political tensions in Mussolini’s Italy.
Muldoon vividly depicts the rich setting of 1920s Italy, from the stunning Amalfi Coast to the bustling streets of Rome. The details bring the landscape and cultural context to life. The writing shimmers with atmospheric descriptions of light, scents and sounds.
At the heart of the novel is Isabella’s journey of exploring her artistic talents and her complex relationship with Edward. Their chemistry simmers from their first meeting. The push and pull between the two passionate but troubled artists makes for an absorbing character study.
The secondary characters also feel fully realized, from Isabella’s supportive mentor to the locals she befriends. Each reveals different facets of life in Italy during this period. The conversations and inner thoughts are believable for the time period.
Themes of struggling for independence as a female artist, dealing with trauma, and navigating cultural clashes resonate deeply. Isabella is an inspirational heroine who grows significantly over the course of the story.