Alchemy’s Daughter by Mary A. Osborne 268 pages
Santina Pietra is a seventeen-year-old living in 14th-Century Italy; San Gimignano to be exact. There aren’t many alternatives for young adult women at this time. The two best options are marriage or the convent. She can stay at home as a spinster and take care of her father; her mother having died many years ago.
Santina’s father has his eye set on a much older man for her husband. But she doesn’t even like him, much less love him. She loves Calandrino, a scholar and friend of her father’s.
Santina is no ordinary woman. She wants to follow her love of knowledge and be something more than a brood mare. She spends her day studying, looking forward to her weekly lesson with Calandrino. However, when he seemingly abandons her for studies at a far-away university, she is devastated.
Instead of capitulating to her father’s wishes that she marry like her sisters, Santina leaves home to study with the local midwife Trotula. In the small cabin, she learns how to fend for herself, how to help deliver the villages babies, and cure the population’s sicknesses. Santina thrives in this role, no matter that both she and Tortula are considered witches.
This story may be set in the 1340s, but Santina resembles a 21st –Century woman. She is fearless, modern, intelligent, and strong. I feel that the young adult women who read this will find not only inspiration, but role models in both women.
The story was rather slow in the beginning, but quickly moved into a can’t-put-it-down tale of strong women. That’s why I gave Alchemy’s Daughter four out of 5 stars.