Review of ‘I, Mona Lisa’ by Natasha Solomons

This historical novel is narrated by Leonardo’s Mona Lisa painting. I’ve seen the painting for real, but the Louvre was so crowded and the picture so relatively small that I wasn’t able to connect with it. This novel addresses that issue and gives us a new perspective on what is probably the most famous painting of all time.

The story follows the life of Mona Lisa from when she is being painted, up to the present day. Although you’re sometimes reminded she is a canvas, pigments and frame, she is portrayed as a real woman, but superior to the mortal woman she is modelled upon. She has a special relationship with Leonardo, her creator. They are able to talk to each other and she grieves that he will pass away, leaving her to  while away the centuries in the hands of monarchs, thieves and curators. It was quite sinister to read about her screaming (for example) while externally she is of course smiling that enigmatic smile.

Sometimes the content felt like an art history lecture but that’s not a bad thing because the subject is interesting. The writing style was a bit heavy-going for me but it suited the persona. I found the book quite a powerful read.

Thank you to the publisher Penguin for the advance copy via NetGalley. The book will be published on 10th February.

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