Usually, novels set in split-time are dominated by either one of its settings or the other, leaving the second to muddle along behind. Not so with The Glassblower of Murano. Although the story takes place alternately in 1681 and present-day Venice, both story lines are exceptionally strong. I love novels set in Venice, as you know that a story about treachery and intrigue will follow, and The Glassblower of Murano is no exception.
Nora Manin leaves London and an ex-husband to work as a glassblower in one of the furnace on the island of Murano. More than three hundred years previously, her ancestor, Corradino Manin, was also a glassblower, one of the best in Venice, who sold Venetian glassmaking secrets to the French. Very soon, inevitably, the Council of the Ten (Venice’s secret police force) catches wind of Corradino’s activities, and he is murdered one evening, stabbed in the back with a dagger made of Murano glass. This is the scene that the novel opens up with, and it’s definitely an eye-opener! Was Corradino truly a traitor? In the present day, Nora goes in search of what really happened all those years ago.
As I’ve said, the parallel time period thing works really well here; Corradino and his descendant Nora are both vibrant characters. There’s a fine balance here between romance, mystery, and history, which I really enjoyed. I also enjoyed the descriptions of glassblowing techniques; I hadn’t realized it was such an art. Fiorato does a great job of depicting Venice, a city that is both beautiful and dangerous at once.
I was a little frustrated with a couple of the details of this book, though. First, although there’s a scene in the Piombi (the Leads) the Doge's Palace's ground-floor prison, there’s no mention of its other great prison, the Pozzi (the Wells, located up under the eaves). There was also little to no mention of The Ten, which might have been more interesting to learn about. Still, I enjoyed this well-written, well-researched novel, and look forward to reading whatever Fiorato writes next. To be published in the US in May 2009.
Also reviewed by: A Work in Progress, A Work in Progress, Literary License, S. Krishna's Books. The Literate Housewife Review