Friday, 20 May 2011

"The Glassblower of Murano," by Marina Fiorato

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Stuff and Nonsense by Amy Cockram is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

If you are wondering why you get 2 posts in such quick succession, it is because I had this week off work - so I had more time to read. "The Anatomy of Ghosts" took me longer to read, and the post took me a couple of days to think about and write. However, "The Glassblower of Murano" is a less complex book, and the ideas are easier to read about and assimilate - hence this post following on quite quickly.

In general terms this is not a book I would normally have selected to read. Marina Fiorato's book is primarily a romance, and I don't tend to read romances very much. A romance plot alone is not enough to hold my interest - old cynic that I am - and I need something else, a ghost story or a crime, to entertain me. A dash of romance in a book can be good, but my tolerance for sentiment is usually tested beyond endurance by a bucketload of the stuff.

In "The Glassblower of Murano" Fiorato's heroine, Nora Manin, leaves England for the Venice of her late father - who worked on the vaporetti - after her husband deserts her for another woman. She wants to work in the glass furnaces of Murano, like her Venetian ancestor, Corrado Manin, who was a master craftsman. The novel has a dual timeline, as her discovery of love and a talent for glassblowing in modern Venice is set against the unfurling of Corrado's story in the 1600s. In the process she embraces her full Italian name - Leonora - and discovers her heritage.

I read this book, although I normally eschew romance, because of its Venetian setting. We had our honeymoon in Venice, and it is a fascinating, beautiful place. I love reading books set in places I have been - so I seek out books set in Venice, as much as I do ones set in New York - as it adds an extra dimension to the book if the author's skill in creating a sense of place is supplemented by my own idea of the geography of the place, or the sensual memory of its atmosphere. Alongside this book, I picked up my guidebook to the Doge's Palace to enhance my memories of the place - so, for example, when Fiorato mentions the Sala del Maggior Consiglio I was able to remind myself of this incredible room and Tintoretto's stunning work of art, "Paradise." In addition to this, Murano was one of my favourite parts of Venice - like an embryonic Venice with all the charm of the canals and with fewer tourists.

I'm trying to be more ruthless and take books to Oxfam if I don't think I will re-read them - I'm running out of book space - and I am undecided at the moment whether to keep this one or not. Fiorato does a good job of evoking the atmosphere of Venice - although just the place names are enough to do that for me - Leonora and Alessandro are appealing lovers, and the descriptions of glass blowing techniques are interesting. In Fiorato's book, Leonora wears a glass heart on a ribbon around her neck which was made by Corrado - apparently a glass heart is very hard to make - and one of my souvenirs from Murano which I treasure was a red glass heart pendant. But I'm not sure that there was enough substance to this book for me to want to read it again.

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