This month I wanted to go to Venice for the Italy in Books reading challenge. Could this have something to do with my upcoming trip to Venice, for Carnevale? Maybe so. The book I chose to take me there was The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato.
The Glassblower of Venice begins in 1681 with Corradino Manin, the great maestro of Venetian glassblowers, returning to his birth city from abroad. He reenters his city at night dressed in all black, except for his white bauta mask, setting the tone for the chapter and the story. He drops off a book and money at an orphanage, which is obviously intended for one specific girl, and waits, knowing he will be murdered soon. The last question he asks before the murderer sticks a Venetian glass knife into him is, "Will Leonora be safe?" The questions and the mystery begin....Who killed him? Why? Who is Leonora? What is so important about the book he left behind?
The next chapter finds us in present-day England with Nora, (short for Leonora). She's newly divorced and hoping to find a new life in Venice. She moves to Venice, the place of her birth and the home of her deceased father. Leonora plans to become a glassblower like her ancestor, Corradino. She is successful, initally because of her name, and becomes the first woman glassblower in Venice.
The mystery surrounding Corradino surfaces to cause Leonora problems, and ultimately her job. She searches for all the information on Corradino and his death, certain it will clear both her and Corradino's name. The chapters switch between Corradino's life in Venice during the 1600s and Leonora's in present-day Venice, and the mystery behind Corradino and his death unfolds. Also, once in Venice, Leonora finds a love interest (Being in Venice, one MUST have a love interest) which provides more conflicts to the story and to Leonora's life. By the end of the book, the mystery is solved and Leonora's life has changed.
I was sad to find that Corradino Manin is an entirely fictional character, although plenty of history on Venice and the art of glassblowing is infused into the story. We also get information on the Venetian Republic and Venice's Council of Ten from the 1600s.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book. What I liked most was how the lives and talents of these two ancestors were similar and become intertwined, even though they lived centuries apart. Leonora is the main character, but I was more drawn to Corradino. At times, even Leonora was more concerned with him than herself, her own father, or her lover. Set in one of my favorite cities, it's quite an easy read involving mystery, love, and some Venetian history. If you are interested in Venetian glassblowing, in a fictional setting, the book could also interest you.
From the story, the book gives me a better appreciation for the art of glassblowing. Sometimes the art gets lost behind all the bobbles for sale in the touristy souvenir shops throughout Venice. This story reminds us that those glassblowers are also responsible for so much more; mirrors, chandeliers, and windows in Venice and beyond. This next trip I know I will look at the windows along the Grand Canal longer and differently. I'll search out glass chandeliers in churches and buildings, seeing if there really is that one in the Chiesa della Pieta, mentioned in the book. When I go to the Cantina Do Mori, I'll look at the mirrors and think of Venetian glassblowers. Now, even the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles, which has a part in this book along with Louis XIV, will take my mind to Venice.
This post is part of the Italy in Books 2011 Reading Challenge. Check out other reviews on books based in Italy: January's Italy in Books Challenge. If you'd like to join the reading challenge, it isn't too late: Italy in Books Reading Challenge 2011.
Have you read The Glassblower of Murano? What did you think of the book? Do you have any other books based in Venice to recommend?
**The photo of the book cover is from the Amazon Associate program. Other photos in this post are mine, all rights are reserved, and may not be used without my permission.