Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

The Violinist of Venice: A Story of Vivaldi

Posted by nliakos on November 21, 2018

by Alyssa Palombo (St. Martin’s Press 2015)

I was in the library, looking for Red, by Orhan Pamuk. It wasn’t on the shelf, but my eyes strayed over to Palombo, and I saw two historical novels by the same author: one about Botticelli and the other about Vivaldi. Those looked interesting, kind of like The Girl with the Pearl Earring, which I loved, so I borrowed one.  The Girl with the Pearl Earring this is not, but it held my attention for about 24 hours. Palombo’s narrator is the musically talented, stubborn, eighteen-year-old Adriana d’Amato. Having read that some people believe that Anna Girò, the much-younger woman whom Vivaldi was rumored to have had an affair with, was in fact not his mistress, but his daughter, Palombo imagined who the mother and actual mistress might have been, and came up with Adriana, who approaches Vivaldi one dark night asking for secret violin lessons, which ultimately culminate in a scandalous love affair between this daughter of a wealthy Venetian social climber and the Red Priest.

In addition to Adriana and Antonio, there is a bastard brother, an abusive father, faithful servants, BFFs Vittoria and Giulietta, various suitors (the older, boring senator; the handsome, fabulously wealthy son of a great Venetian family), the eventual children who are all beautiful and musically talented…. Except for the impossible relationship with the composer-violinist, Adriana turns out to have a pretty cushy life. And things happen without much fanfare. Palombo doesn’t bother to build her story line slowly. (In two sequential sentences, Adriana’s half-brother Giuseppe begins courting her widowed friend and marries her eighteen months later.) Everything is tied up neatly and efficiently: for example, unwanted spouses conveniently die so that would-be lovers can marry, and the bastard child given up for adoption magically reappears to study singing with Vivaldi.

There’s rather a lot of sex. . . .  no bodices are actually ripped, but there’s a lot of passionate attraction among Venice’s beautiful young people (and a few lecherous old ones too).

And Adriana seems more like a liberated young woman of today, insisting on making her own choices (like nursing her babies and composing music) even when those are not done in her society. Another author quoted on the cover, Roberta Rich, proclaims the novel “realistic”. That’s not an adjective that came to my mind while reading it!

It wasn’t deep, but it was a satisfying read in a way. I can’t claim I didn’t finish it.

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