Merry Wanderer of the Night  + [YA]

Review: A Golden Web by Barbara Quick

A Golden Web by Barbara Quick is the story of Alessandra, a bright and inquisitive young girl living in a time period when intelligent women were frowned upon, feared and stifled. Her father is a stationer, which gives her access to books and she studies and reads all that she can get her hands on. After her step-mother (who hates her) forces her to remain in seclusion for a year, Alessandra knows it is time to make important decisions about her future. Her step-mother plans to send her to a nunnery for a year and then ship her off for an arranged marriage. Alessandra is devastated. Husbands do not allow their wives to learn, and she desperately wants to study medicine. And so, she leaves the nunnery, disguises herself as a young man and heads to the city to study medicine.

I know I'm not alone in this, but I really enjoy the stories where girls dress up as boys to reach their dreams. I like to think that if I had lived back in the 'olden days' that I would have been that hard core, that I would have been able to cut off all my pretty hair and disappear into the world. I don't know if I would actually have been able to do it, but I really like reading about girls who are. Alessandra wants to study medicine and she is incredibly dedicated to gaining knowledge. She is incredibly bright and she with what she already knew, and how quickly she learns, she is able to take the first three years of exams before her first year of study has passed. Word of her, now a young man known as Sandro, spreads, and soon it seems that everyone knows of her and her talents. She meets a young man named Otto, and they form a quick friendship, but, as it the way of things, her feelings become more than friendly.

I really liked the way the author told Alessandra's story. It didn't get bogged down in the 'drama'. You know the type in these stories — What if someone finds out I'm a girl?! What do I do now that I'm falling in love with someone who thinks I'm a man?! etc. These elements were most definitely there, but they weren't what carried the story, and I liked that. The story rested on Alessandra and her desire to learn and to increase her understanding of the human body.

Alessandra in real life is a bit of a myth. No one is completely sure whether she was a real person or not. But Barbara Quick definitely made her come alive for me. She was a wonderfully strong character, full of life and she just wanted a chance to use her brain. She knew that her ability to learn was a blessing and felt that it would be a waste to do nothing with it. And she craved knowledge. I've felt that way a few times, where you just have to know, have to learn more and I'm incredibly grateful that I was born into a time and place where I have all the opportunities for knowledge that I want.

The only complaint I have with the story is the ending. I don't want to spoil anything for you, but I do feel it needs mentioning. I thought the ending was incredibly abrupt and a bit rushed. It was a little bit confusing at first, because I couldn't figure out how the author went from point A to point D so quickly and it just didn't feel... right. I have no problem with the way to book ended, it seemed fitting and as far as I know, is historically what is said about Alessandra's life. But I don't like how the author took us there. It just doesn't feel quite... right.

Other than that complaint, I genuinely enjoyed this book, and it is one that I would recommend to anyone looking for an interesting historical fiction read, or anyone like me who really likes the stories of girls taking matters into their own hands, and heading off toward their dreams.

*Disclaimer: This book was received as part of a Teen Book Scene tour. in my blog for the complete tour listing.