Review: "Sleeping Embers of An Ordinary Mind" by Ann Charnock

As I was perusing through the Kindle book store, looking for an ebook that was reasonably priced and had some pizzazz, I stumbled across Sleeping Embers. I hoped the book would imaginatively delve into the life that female Renaissance painter Antonia Uccello could have led. I wanted a book that explored the lives of women who broke with tradition in the Renaissance; after all, the book does get its title from Laura Cereta, a feminist writer in fifteenth century Italy. I did not get the book I hoped for; instead, I got the strangest book I’ve ever read.

“My ears are wearied by your carping. You brashly and publicly not merely wonder but indeed lament that I am said to possess as fine a mind as nature ever bestowed upon the most learned man. You seem to think that so learned a woman has scarcely before been seen in the world. You are wrong on both counts… I am a school girl, possessed of the 
sleeping embers of an ordinary mind. 
~ Laura Cereta
   January 13, 1488 “

 In Sleeping Embers, Charnock travels the story-lines of three different women, Antonia, Toniah, and Toni, in three distinct time periods, 1469, 2113, and 2015. Surprisingly, these three women have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The book opens with Toniah, a “second gen partho” who is working at the prestigious “Academy” in 2113 to basically re-write history to make women more prominent and lessen the roles of men. We find Toniah struggling to find fulfillment in her job, uncovering family secrets, and quietly bickering with her sister. Next, we meet Toni. Toni is a fifteen year old girl living with her widower father, who just happens to be an artist. Together, they struggle to cope the loss of their mother and wife. Interestingly, they find “healing” in visiting the ignored grave of their family relative. Last, we meet Antonia, the daughter of famed Renaissance artist Paolo Uccello. Antonia, unlike the other two, is learning her craft and having her martial fate decided for her by her father.

“The artist must have a strategy every bit as cunning as that of the commander of a great army” 
The three story-lines are interesting, but they feel strange contained in the same book. Toni, Toniah, and Antonia seem to fight for attention leaving the reader wishing for a little more Antonia and a little less of whiny, spineless Toniah. Charnock would have been better suited to write three separate books about each one of the main characters. After all, they are all three interesting in their own right.
“everyone alive today is a survivor of the Black Death. Of plague. 
Our ancestors were immune, so we are.” 

Honestly, I drudged through this book without any pleasure. Of books that I have hated, Sleeping Embers runs right alongside Uncle Tom’s Cabin. When I finished the book I was left with no take away message and no enjoyment. I was actually happy that it was over, a rarity in my world.

“From a distance, the future always seem serene” 

Bottom Line: This book is oppressively boring and unnecessarily confusing. Charnock has created a novel that is completely and utterly forgettable. The only thing that redeemed it was the several quotable lines that are sprinkled throughout the novel; however, that isn’t enough to save it. Unlike most things I review here on DC, I can not recommend that you read Sleep Embers of An Ordinary Mind. 

Love and Happy Reading,




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