First line: Sixteenth-century Venice was a rich mélange of cultural influences arising from the steady interaction of intellectuals, artists, diplomats, travelers, and merchants.
Review: I've been an enormous fan of Waldherr for years, thanks to her tarot decks, and I'd been so intrigued by this novel. Unbelievably, it's been ten years since this was originally released, and Waldherr is releasing this as an enhanced e-book.
This novel is a 16th century memoir, framed by notes from museum curators. The pages are richly illustrated, decorated with portraits, ephemera, illuminated caps, and other small notions that make the experience magical. (And had/has me wishing still that this manuscript, and the associated museum, were real!)
Filamena Ziani, singer and aspiring composer, is kept tightly hidden by her older sister Tullia, a reknown Venetian courtesan. But a chance encounter introduces Filamena to love, and her amour gifts her with a plum and his mother's journal, which details the lover's path -- lovers from history and mythology who act as guardians, guides, and icons for the young couple.
In addition to being an immensely gifted illustrator, Waldherr's narrative is wonderfully evocative. The set up of this novel immediately made me think of other medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, as Filomena addresses her patroness. Her story is a classic coming-of-age tale, sympathetically told, in a lyrical manner that is rich with detail without feeling bloated or overly ornate. The historical details and setting provide flavor and a strong sense of moody romance (how can it not -- it's Renaissance Venice!).
I read this on my Kobo Glo HD and it was a thing of beauty, even in black and white (iPad and Kindle Fire editions are in color and yowza!). The first few chapters are available as a PDF preview in sumptuous full color.
I've got nothing but swoony, swoony love for this one -- get it and indulge in some lush escapist reading! With the playful and charming illustrated elements, this book drew out that sense of wonderment I get from reading, the visceral joy of being plunged into a story. These days, being so frazzled and overtired (and impatient and dopey and etc etc etc) it was really a gift to feel so immersed in another world.
Publisher/Publication Date: Art and Words Editions (6/16/2015)