This stunning novel is the third Venetian book in a row that I have read and gosh, what a read.
Mr. Hewson is a skilled teller of stories, cleverly weaving together two intricate, intertwined plots, separated by 250 years.
At first, the stories seem to be running parallel to each other, but as we get drawn ever deeper into the contemporary plot, the drama and the intrigue and the music (oh, the music) of the late 1770s come to play an integral part in the events unfolding in 21st century Venice. And suddenly you realise that the two Venetian stories are not quite as stand-alone as you’d initially thought.
Daniel, a young British academic, arrives in Venice for the first time ever, ostensibly to work during his summer vacation cataloguing a library. His employer, the rich, but ailing Scacchi, sends him to buy a stolen violin from a petty, but nasty, criminal – an action that sets off a chain of increasingly violent events.
The city of Venice is absolutely not just a picturesque backdrop for the two stories, but an integral “character” in her own right:
“The square was deserted. If it were not for the electric lights in the windows, he could have been in the Venice of two or three hundred years earlier. This was, he believed, what had made his mother come to love the city, and pass on the feeling to her son: the hint of ghostly footprints in the dust, a sign of successive generations puzzling over their lives.”
It is marvellous to be able to wander the streets of Venice, and to travel her canals, both in the 1770s and today. To walk or sail past a church that is mentioned in both stories is fascinating, and we can compare the sounds and smells of the city over the centuries.
There are heart-stopping moments, some of which are moments of great cruelty.
And, in the final paragraph of this extraordinarily clever, compelling novel, there is a twist.
It is a twist makes you smile, and stop and think back over everything you have just read.
An excellent, absorbing read.
And, oh joy, there’s a map of Venice. I referred to it constantly, to make sure I knew exactly where the action was taking place over the centuries.
Oh yes, those two previous books about Venice that I’ve just read, do I hear you ask?