Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Review: The Venetian Mask

Summary: At the Ospedale della pieta, a music school for orphaned girls in Venice, Marietta Fontana and Elena Baccini meet and become like sisters to each other. As they leave their impoverished childhoods behind, their bond grows more complicated -- Elena marries a scion of the powerful Celano family, while Marietta weds a wealthy widower who is the sworn enemy of the Celanos. When Elena secretly bears a child, then quickly gives it up to be raised by Marietta, a chain of events is set off that will test the true strength of their friendship and threaten every bit of security each woman has worked so hard to gain.

Rich and evocative, The Venetian Mask beautifully re-creates eighteenth-century Venice: the complex webs of politics, class, and religion; the rituals, intrigue, superstitions, and betrayals in a city of ever-shifting fortunes. The Venetian Mask is a page-turning tale that will capture the hearts and imaginations of its readers. -- book jacket

I'm embarrassed to say that I received an ARC of THE VENETIAN MASK by Rosalind Laker a few months ago. I have had wonderful intentions to read it for quite awhile, and I even included it in my list for the Spring Reading Thing 2008; but for some reason, I just got around to reading it this week. I was so in the mood for a good historical fiction book, and this book hit the spot. Plus, it counts towards the Chunkster Challenge (another thing I've kind of let drop these past few months.

I definitely enjoyed THE VENETIAN MASK, and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to lovers of historical fiction books; however, it didn't quite hold my attention the way THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL did. I'm not sure that he Marietta and Elena characters were developed fully enough -- they were kind of flat to me. This book was more about their actions, rather than what went on inside their heads that motivated them to those actions.

Having said that about my little issue with the characters, I did think the storyline was very intriguing. Because this book is very heavily plot driven, I guess it's a good thing that I enjoyed the story. I liked reading about the on-going conflict between the Celano and Torrisi families -- kind of like a modern day mafia war. In addition, I enjoyed getting caught up in the lies and deceptions of the characters. There were a few plot twists that kept things interesting too.

What I really loved about this book was Ms. Laker's ability to bring Venice to life! Venice was probably the most developed character in the entire novel. I am absolutely dying to visit Italy; however, we're not going anytime soon, so I'll just have to "visit" the country through the words of authors. Ms. Laker's descriptions were so precise that I could picture eighteenth-century Venice in clear detail. I could even imagine all of the scents of Venice too (some good, and some not so good.) Being kind of a girly girl, I especially appreciated her explanations of the exquisite clothes, costumes, and masks. It is quite apparent to me that she conducted a lot of research before writing this novel.

THE VENETIAN MASK was originally released in the early 1990s, but it has recently been re-issued by Three Rivers Press. If you are looking for a good summer read, I suggest reading this novel -- I think it would make a terrific beach read! Ms. Laker has written numerous other historical fiction books, and I wouldn't hesitate to read another one.

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