Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

The Second Mrs. Giaconda

GiacondaThe Second Mrs. Giaconda by E.L. Konigsburg


The heart of this story is asked in the very beginning of this short novel: Why did Leonardo da Vinci choose to paint a portrait of the second wife of a little-known merchant of Venice (the Mona Lisa), when dukes, duchesses, and other high ranking officials across Europe wanted him to do theirs? It’s a good question, and a valid one, but no one really knows the answer. Luckily, there are authors like E.L. Konigsburg who tackle the question in a fictional way.

The people, places, and pieces of art in this book are real, but the central characters — da Vinci, one of his apprentices named Salai, and the Duchess of Milan, Beatrice — are just that — characters. The premise of the novel is interesting, and Konigsburg presents the friendship of the three in a convincing and subtle way. In fact, the subtle manner which Konigsburg uses when writing is even mentioned on a back-cover blurb which sums it up perfectly: “[Konigsburg’s] gift in the understatement, the vitality she extracts from the most common place.” I don’t know if this quote (from Horn Book) is for this book, or just sums up her writing style, but it’s on the mark.

I think my favorite thing about this book is that it’s all a prelude to the painting of the Mona Lisa. She doesn’t cover the process, or delve into a lot of detail about the person who became the most famous woman in art; instead, she answers the question of “Why?”, and leaves the subject shrouded in her mystery. It’s a bold move, and one that works well in context to the story, and in deference to the portrait.

The story is good, but I recommend it more because of its author. I’ve taken a shine to Ms. Konigsburg, and expect to read many more of her books.


July 15, 2006 - Posted by | Juvenile Fiction, Reviews


  1. Hello! I love your reviews! I plan on reading this one! Sound interesting.

    Comment by John S. | November 4, 2006 | Reply

  2. I loved this book. So much so that I am using it in my 7th and 8th grades art class as a curriculum novel. I am in the look out for lesson plans created on this novel.

    Comment by Lourdes | April 13, 2007 | Reply

    • i know right? It may have no climax, but it has a great theme!

      Comment by AsainPride | November 19, 2010 | Reply

  3. I liked this book too and when my wife saw me reading it for the 5th or 6th time, she would yell: JEEMY! ILL BURN THAT BOOK IF YOU PAY MORE ATTENTION IT THAN ME!. Ive managed to hide it so far though! Ive been wondering what genre this comes under. Historical fiction seems almost too fictional. any ideas?

    Comment by Jeemy G. | September 14, 2007 | Reply

    • I think the book falls under historical fiction AND non-fiction. ( I think that’s what you meant when you said fiction)
      You’ve just made my day with that comment.
      I hope she didn’t find out your still reading it.

      Comment by AsainPride | November 19, 2010 | Reply

  4. I’m in 7th grade and i just read this book. WORST BOOK IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I don’t recommend reading this.

    Comment by Kiran S. | June 9, 2008 | Reply

  5. i think this book is so boring. y would anyone pick this as a topic of a book??

    Comment by shannon | October 8, 2008 | Reply

    • well u cant blame the book and if u thought it was boring y did u read it (just sayin $_$)

      Comment by rocker101 | October 20, 2010 | Reply

  6. I would maybe like this book if i were 40 years old and gay.

    Comment by jimmy f | February 22, 2009 | Reply

  7. Uhh, I don’t think the book is boring. It was at first, but it gets interesting later on. I’m in 7th grade too, but I wouldn’t think that it’s the worst book in the world, it’s just… different.

    P.S. #6, I bet YOU ARE 40 years old AND gay.

    Comment by Audrey | November 6, 2009 | Reply

    im in grade eight and i really dislike this book intensly!!
    and i hate everyone who likes this book!!!

    Comment by elsa | March 31, 2010 | Reply

    • im in 7th grade and i read like 2 chapters because i have to read this for school,but it is most definately the WORST FREAKIN BOOK IV EVER READ……..AND I DIDNT EVEN READ THE DAMN THING!!!!!!!! I HATE THIS BOOK! but i have to read it and im going online to try and find out what the hell its about……

      Comment by jessie | February 14, 2011 | Reply

    • Chill out bro… was a good book!\

      Comment by Joe. Lee | February 12, 2013 | Reply

  9. hello!! im a 6th grader and “the second mrs. gioconda is my book club book because of ur post i understand the book more even thought im not really done with it rock on

    Comment by rocker101 | October 20, 2010 | Reply

  10. hey i have a quesstion who is MORO and who did he marry beatrice or isabella??

    Comment by rocker101 | October 20, 2010 | Reply

    • im pretty sure my art teacher said that moro was another name for the duke but i forget who he married

      Comment by person | November 2, 2010 | Reply

      • He married Beatrice, until she died

        Comment by Joe. Lee | February 12, 2013

  11. I hated this book real bad cuz my art teacher made us read them and it was really boring but everyone likes different books so hey give it a whirl and maybe………… just maybe (very unlikely) you will like it.

    Comment by person | November 2, 2010 | Reply

  12. Hello! I’m a 5th grader and this was my book club book. So much crtizism here! I agree it was a kinda boring book with no climax and very poor plot, but give Ms. Koningsburg a break.

    Comment by AsainPride | November 19, 2010 | Reply

  13. im in 6th grade and this is the worst book ever

    Comment by vgjlcghjl | December 7, 2010 | Reply

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