Title: The Second Mrs. Giaconda
Author: E. L. Konigsburg
Major Themes: Leonardo da Vinci, Artists, Italy
Synopsis: Salai, servant to Leonardo da Vinci, has learned the perfect way to manipulate the great man, and now we know the solution to the mystery of the Mona Lisa.
E. L. Konigsburg has done a superb job of bringing Leonardo da Vinci to life in The Second Mrs. Giaconda. We get to see the master through the eyes of his apprentice/servant/friend Salai, who was a real person by the way. Leonardo mentions him in some of his notebooks, calling Salai such names as liar, thief, glutton. . . . He also makes notes of some of the expenses he incurred on Salai’s behalf. That makes you wonder why he kept such a person around, doesn’t it?
Well, as we see Salai develop through the pages of this story, we can understand more why Salai was kept in Leonardo’s household. He must have made himself indispensable, maybe keeping Leonardo sane through his wildness!
Another prominent character we meet in this story is Beatrice, the wife of Il Moro, the duke of Milan. She was his second—or maybe third choice. With Salai’s help, however, she blossomed into a lively, witty woman, and Il Moro fell in love with his wife—for awhile. Leonardo and Salai were both in love with her, as well.
Where did the title of the book come from? Who is Mrs. Giaconda—and the second Mrs. Giaconda, at that? You’ll have to wait until the very last page to find out—but don’t read the last page first, because you have to have the entire story to understand. This is a fun, entertaining, and even educational solution to the mystery of the Mona Lisa, which has intrigued scholars for centuries now.
WARNING: The word darn is used on page 91.
Read Aloud—Ages 10 – 13
Reading Independently—Ages 10 – 12, 12 – 15, 15 and Above