Title: The Glassblower of Murano
Author: Marina Fiorato
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Date: June 2009 (U.S. edition)
Reason for reading: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
First line: "As Corradino Manin looked on the lights of San Marco for the last time, Venice from the lagoon seemed to him a golden constellation in the dark blue velvet dusk."
A little romance, a little history, and a little mystery make The Glassblower of Murano a fast and enjoyable read. Told from both the 17th century perspective of Venetian master glassblower Corradino Manin and the perspective of his 21st century descendant Leonora, you'll get glimpses of a Venice that in some ways hasn't changed much.
Leonora (Nora) flees her failed marriage in London to begin life anew as a glassblower in Venice. It is here that she meets a handsome Venetian man who looks like he has stepped out of a Renaissance painting. Nora herself resembles Botticelli's "Primavera." Of course. Alessandro, the lovely Venetian man, is quite busy and not able to spend much time with Nora so it is no surprise that there are misunderstandings when his beautiful Italian ex-girlfriend surfaces. Typical. This part of the story is not particularly original, but it works. I was more taken with the romance of Venice and the beautiful descriptions that made me want to get on a plane and star gaze into a dusky blue sky while I lounged on jewel colored silk cushions surrounded by the soft light of hurricane lamps and tea lights glowing through the Moorish mullions of the windows that face my veranda. And don't forget the glass of prosecco.
The history is the history of Venice and glassblowing. I thought the author did a very nice job crafting a story around historical Venice and the craft of glassblowing. Glass making in Venice is more advanced than it is in other parts of the 17th century world and so Venetian glass is highly prized and its secrets carefully guarded. This historical monopoly along with the machinations of a corrupt and power hungry republic are the historical focus of the novel.
The mystery surrounds Corradino Manin, a master glassblower who holds the secret of making flat reflective glass. He has long been a city hero and his name graces various places in Venice. The current viability of one of the ancient glassblowing factories falls on his reputation, so it is troubling when information comes to light that he may have betrayed his own country to sell Venetian glass making secrets to the French. Leonora, along with the guidance of an old professor and help from Alessandro, pursues the truth of what happened. Was Corradino a traitor? Is he redeemed in the end?
Overall, I was more intrigued by the descriptions and history of Venice, and by the rather cloak and dagger mystery than I was by the romance. Fortunately, the romance was blended nicely with the rest of the novel leaving me with a very enjoyable read that I can recommend. A nice summer read.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5