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Driven by an inner force that enabled her to go back in time, Rina de' Firenze reveals what has been, since the Italian Renaissance, an enduring mystery throughout history, by recounting the life of Caterina, the mother of the great genius, Leonardo da Vinci. Told through the voice of the heroine, "Lisa," the compelling story begins with her birth into a cruel, aristocratic world, where she is orphaned in infancy, and then growing up in the Tuscan countryside, where she was renamed Caterina. In a succession of revelations Caterina moves us by the vivid descriptions of the fears and anxieties she suffers, first, when her illegitimate son, Leonardo, is snatched from her care at a tender age and then in her life of isolation on a remote slope in the Tuscan hills. But later, for the adolescent Leo, her simple dwelling becomes a magnetic attraction when first he flees his father's comfortable home and then from Verocchio's studio, where he was an apprentice. In that solitary corner of the world he discovers the poetry of nature and observes its phenomena - water, plants, the flight of birds - and secretly builds his first mechanical devices, devoting himself to visions of human progress. Manifested throughout the book is the theme of Leonardo's dream: to immortalize his mother's image in the painting which has been a great mystery since its creation.