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Local Writer's First Book

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Dawn Cumming
Dawn Cumming's Book Cover

Dawn Cumming is an art historian with a particular interest in Italian Renaissance history and art. Her name will be familiar to many people living in the Haddenham and Thame area where she has taught widely on the subject of art to various groups, societies and residents in care homes for many years.

Dawn is passionate about Tuscany and she divides her time between the UK and the countryside near Lucca. Her interest in Tuscany is such that in 2016 she devised study days held privately from her own home in Thame with the intention of sharing a glimpse of Tuscany with everyone.

Her many followers will be pleased to learn that her long-awaited first book has just been published. It is no surprise to discover that it is focused on Renaissance Florence her favourite city. Her non-fiction historical biography recounts her personal journey to tell the story of the achievements and legacy of Annalena Malatesta a fifteenth-century noblewoman.

Dawn says: ''I was first inspired to write about Annalena Malatesta about twenty years ago during one of my first visits to the beautiful city of Florence, however the idea was put on the back burner as I concentrated on raising my two children and teaching in the community''. The name of Annalena was however, to remain firmly etched in Dawn's mind since she always believed that the life of Annalena deserved to be celebrated. For too long the name of this Renaissance woman had remained in the shadows of the more sensational story of the murder of her infamous husband Baldaccio d'Anghiari.

Annalena lived in what was essentially 'a man's world' but she succeeded in overcoming many obstacles in her life to become the founder of one of the most important and magnificent convents in Florence. She emerged as one of the most inspirational and significant female spiritual figures in fifteenth century Florence. She was such a remarkable woman who lived a fascinating life of two halves: before and after she founded her convent. "I wanted to live and breathe the air that Annalena once breathed" says Dawn and "I relished the thought of immersing myself totally into Annalena's world".

The story of Annalena Malatesta was a long time in the making with Dawn spending over five years engaged in doing research and writing her book. She spent a great deal of time 'beavering' away in some of the most magnificent collections of ancient manuscripts including the State Archives in Florence and the Bodleian library in Oxford.

Her task was not an easy one since it involved the translation of many documents that had been written in fifteenth century Italian. ''Doing research is what I love most of all'' Dawn says. ''It's like being a detective following up on clues. I get such satisfaction from uncovering pieces of information that may otherwise have remained unknown''.

During these difficult times when travel abroad is restricted, the ability to see some of the most important and magnificent works of Italian Renaissance art is not easily within our reach. Dawn's book evokes a vivid portrayal of the atmosphere of Tuscany and especially Florence (both past and present) and includes detailed descriptions of several Italian Renaissance masterpieces — allowing the reader to experience something of Florence from the comfort of their armchair!

In Search of Annalena. A Life of Tragedy and Triumph in Renaissance Florence by Dawn Cumming is published on 28th October 2020 by Troubador Publishing (ISBN: 9781800460799; 241 pages paperback including colour plates). Signed copies are available from The Book House, Thame or via the author's website.