#92 ~ The Four Seasons

August 5, 2008 at 10:08 pm | Posted in Books, Culture, Historical Fiction, Reading, Religion | 10 Comments
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Four Seasons, The: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona

Earlier this year I read and reviewed The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker. I enjoyed learning about Venetian history and about the Pieta specifically. So, when I was offered the opportunity to read The Four Seasons, a novel about the Pieta and Venice during the time of Antonio Vivaldi, I jumped at the chance. This novel tells the story of two sisters, Maddalena and Chiaretta, who were left anonymously at the Pieta by the mother who could not care for them both. She may have been a courtesan because she left them with the money needed to keep them together through Chiaretta’s infancy. As they grew, their talents led them to different destinies. Chiaretta beauty and outstanding singing voice led her to fame and marriage. Maddalena’s quiet nature and inborn love for the violin and its music were what attracted Vivaldi’s attention.

The relationship between these sisters was close and loving. It was as if when they were branded with the letter “P” on the bottom of their feet together that their hearts were seared together. The most beautiful scenes in this book are when they fight for each other. Each season of their lives brought them closer together. That they would gladly take on the world for each other was always apparent. What was somewhat disappointing was that there wasn’t a compelling reason for them to fight.

I enjoy a strong heroine, but I love her best when she is pitted against a worthy adversary. This villain never made an appearance in The Four Seasons. While Maddalena and Chiaretta wrote back and forth about how one violin tutor was the devil, she didn’t ever do anything to either of the sisters to invite such wrath. Their name calling felt more like children being children than a statement of fact. Vivaldi was to impotent and pitiful for me to fully grasp Maddalena’s connection to him after he first left her without a word. Perhaps what I needed to truly bring this to life was an intrinsic love for music that Maddalena Rossa did. Even as someone without a note of musical talent in my body, I could sense the author’s love for music as she painted the pictures of Vivaldi and his must together working on his compositions. While I appreciate that it does for the characters and is beautifully written, it was off in the distance for me. Perhaps if I was there in the room with them I would have sensed the danger that always lingered between the two of them. Ultimately, Anna Giraud showed up too late to be the nemesis I longed for.

Venice is a city with almost a split personality. On one hand, you have city’s religious life. The Roman Catholic Church and its institutions played a large roll in the city and its citizens. On the other hand, there are the masks, the courtesans, and the night life. So long as the person was discrete, no harm was done either socially or, so it seems, spiritually. Corona captures this best in this novel when Maddalena barely blinks an eye when she discovers the type of life that Chiaretta leads after her marriage. This seems to be part of the reason why the Pieta and three other ospedali came into existence.

Despite lacking drama, I enjoyed reading The Four Seasons from start to finish. The love story between Maddalena and Chiaretta is beautiful. It also reignited my desire to read more about Venice. I absolutely love the flavor that city had in the 17th and 18th centuries. I will most definitely be looking for other novels about this city, especially those that focus on the lives of those outside of the Pieta’s walls. This reviewer is ready to read about how those ospedali were filled.

The Four Seasons will be published by Hyperion in November, 2008.

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To pre-order this novel, click here.

#67 ~ The Venetian Mask

April 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm | Posted in Books | 4 Comments
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Venetian Mask Cover

The Venetian Mask: A Novel by Rosalind Laker

Although I purchased The Golden Tulip last year, this is the first novel I’ve read by Rosalind Laker. It tells the story of Marietta, a girl who lost her parents at an early age. Her mother loved her so much that she ensured that her daughter was given a home at the Pieta, a Roman Catholic home for orphaned girls. This was the place for Marietta because it gave her the opportunity to make the most of her beautiful singing voice. There, she becomes best friends with Elena. The two grow up together like sisters, only to marry into two Venetian families embroiled in a generation’s old vendetta.

While thinking about this novel over the weekend, I kept making comparisons to The Tea Rose. This was because both heroines are similarly strong women, but even more so because everything they touched in business turned to gold. They certainly worked hard for their success, but there is this little part of me that feels that it came too readily. It’s not that I wanted Marietta or Fiona to have an exhaustingly difficult experience building their businesses. I think it would be more realistic to have a tiny idea or two that didn’t pan out.

My feelings for the novels as a whole are similar as well. They both had portions that kept me reading as well as portions that felt too long. Still, I really enjoyed my trip through beauty, lust, and intrigue of Venice. I loved the descriptions of the masks and the parties. I am also interested in learning more about the city’s history. Much like Devourer of Books, I found Venice to be equally compelling and perhaps more fleshed than Marietta or Elena. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t recommend this book. Laker has good writing skills and creates an interesting world. Given its pacing, it would make a good choice if you want to work on a book when you can’t devote all of your time to it. It’s a pleasant diversion that can easily be picked back up after a while without losing its charm.

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To buy this novel, click here.

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