What an astonishing book. I started to read it thinking it was going to
be a murder mystery with an historical setting. What a surprise to
discover that it takes place in mid-19th century London, and the
characters are the reknowned Pre-Raphaelite artists Louis Frost, John
Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rosetti and others. And that the principal
character was none other than Elizabeth Siddal, the Pre-Raphaelite
artist who is best remembered today as the model for the very famous
Millais painting of Ophelia drowning in the pond with all the flowers
I found it fascinating that this book - obviously well researched - took these people and completely fictionalized a story around them. Nothing taking place during the time period in the novel is factual. In fact, the novel would lead one to believe that Ms. Siddal was the wife of Louis Frost, when in real life she was actually married to Rosetti.
London itself is a major character in this book - and the events that took place in it. Especially events such as The Great Exhibition of 1851 (the precursor of The World's Fairs) and the venerated Royal Academy curated yearly "On the Line" exhibits by the finest artists in the nation, both of which play large roles in this novel. The author does a marvelous job of bringing the images and sounds and smells of the city fully to life. It's very easy to feel yourself living in the world of the novel while reading it...a special gift to me, as a reader! And she doesn't shy from making the squalid and brutal as tactile as the lush, beautiful and splendid. It was all part of that world and all part of this story.
Courtesy of Jeanie at The Marmelade Gypsy blog, who recommended them, I spent an enchanting weekend in Venice. I didn't get to fly over to Italy (darn it), but I read two terrific novels over the weekend by Donna Leon which take place in Italy. This is the post in which she discusses them.
The Commissario Guido Brunetti mysteries are a series about a police detective in Venice and his astute ability to ferret out the evil-doers in that marvelous city. He has a splendid bevy of of cohorts in both the assistant policemen in the constabulary and his family which he heads with his wife, a socially conscious lady of independent means. Another major character in these books - at least the two I read - is the city itself. And Ms. Leon does a splendid job of dredging up all my fond memories of Venice from my college 3-month stay there as an exchange student. She has a way of bringing the unique way of traversing the city (you have two choices - get a boat or walk) fully to life. I was also amused that Commissario Brunetti started his day out with cappuccino and brioche from a sidewalk cafe/bakery every morning; that was just exactly how I started my mornings 50 years ago! Neither of these books took place during the magical event of Carnivale. I was fortunate to have spent my college time there during Carnivale, and I have since returned on holiday for Carnivale. I am hoping that one (or more) of these stories takes place during that fantastic and exotic time; I'm getting the entire boxed set, so I'll know by the end of the year!
The mysteries themselves I found intriguing and original. It was a fluke that the two I picked up happened to have the same sort of theme about them: the murders involved socio/ecological interests. I've read some of the other descriptions of the books and they're filled with more lurid subjects (greed, adultery, sex, dysfunctional families, etc. 😂). I really was rather surprised by the guilty parties - and the standard murder mystery 'chase' scenes in both books were raised a notch with the necessary addition of the Venice canals and boats and unique street layout.
The writing is sharp and clever. The characters are honest and sincere, but they also often have a touch of cynicism and dry humor that livens them up and makes them very urban and real.
These are fun - and quick - reads - and I thank Jeanie for the recommendation. I look forward to more.
Right now I'm in the midst of a most strange and unusual and rather wonderful book, The Perfume Thief, by Timothy Schaffert. I'll let you know about it next week!
Thanks for stopping by Enchanted Revelries. I hope you found something you think would be a good read for you! Be sure to stop by Beverly's Pink Saturday Blog Hop to see what other choice morsels are being offered ... and you might like to check out whatever is new over at Jeanie's Marmelade Gypsy blog!
... now go make something beautiful!
(¸.•´ (¸.•´) Tristan