* Pick a keyword and then find a number, 5 or 10 say, of books that link to it in any way – e.g. they are either about or feature that word, or have it or a variant in their titles;
* List and introduce the books.
* That’s all there is to it apart from having fun. If you want to have a go, feel free!
My first list was of Monkey Books. For my second list, my keyword this time is …
…which gives me masses of scope, as it’s a city I loved when we visited in 2005 and a location that I adore in books. The picture, left, was drawn by my daughter (who had just turned five), after experiencing crossing the canal on a traghetto ferry gondola. For a five year old she nailed the perspective didn’t she!
1. The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato, which I reviewed here. This was Marina’s first novel and follows the story of a newly single artist going to Venice to learn the skills of her ancestors, and in a historical strand we hear the ancestor’s story of how he escaped the guilds to go an make the mirrors at Versailles. It was a great read and Marina herself is a real character as she’s been to Abingdon twice now with her books – the third must be due soon I hope.
2. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. This is the first of nineteen novels (at current count) featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti who has to solve the murder of a Maestro at Venice’s opera house. I always get the feeling that life in Italy’s cities is full of bureaucracy and petty battles between all involved in government. You either embrace it or try to ignore it – Brunetti does the latter and it is his ambivalence and refusal to join in office politics rather than kicking against the system that makes him such a refreshing maverick detective!
3. Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers, in which a spinster, Miss Garnet goes to Venice on an extended holiday after the death of a friend. There she falls in love with an angel in a Raphael painting, and undergoes a series of epiphanies, discovering a new side to herself as she encounters an Italian art historian Carlo … Alongside Miss Garnet’s awakening, Vickers tells the story behind the painting which is a scene from the Book of Tobit which has many parallels with Miss Garnet’s situation. It’s a subtle novel, and I really enjoyed it.
4. The Kiss of Death by Marcus Sedgwick, which I reviewed here. Sedgwick is possibly my favourite YA author and this was the first book I read by him. It’s set at the end of the 18thC during Carnevale (approaching Lent) and features proper vampires – the real monstrous ones of Eastern European tradition. It’s a great adventure, and the dankness of Venice in winter really comes through.
5. The Lying Tongue by Andrew Wilson. Twists and more twists, this literary page-turner starts off innocently, when young Adam takes a job in Venice as assistant to a reclusive writer. However, he’s drawn in by his employer, wanting to uncover his life-story and there the plot thickens!The reader is wrong-footed at every turn and the result is a literary mystery of the highest order which is reminiscent of both the play/film Sleuth and the novels of Patricia Highsmith. In fact, Wilson has written a well-received biography of Highsmith called Beautiful Shadow which is in my TBR pile somewhere.
Rather than stretch the list to ten, I decided to stick with 5 books that I’d read and enjoyed, but there are many others set in Venice including the following in my TBR piles:
- Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
- Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi by Geoff Dyer
- The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke (children’s book).
- Vaporetto 13 by Robert Girardi
- Alibi by Joseph Kanon
Can you recommend any more?