Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick

VIVALDI'S VIRGINSBarbara Quick, Harper Collins, 2007, $24.95 USD / $31.00 CND, hardcover, 284 pages, ISBN: 978-0-06-089052-0

Anna Maria dal Violin was abandoned as a baby and lives as an orphan in the foundling home and cloisters of the Ospedale della Pieta in Venice. From an early age, she was taught to play the violin and became part of an elite orchestra of orphan girls. Antonio Vivaldi, the "Red Priest" composed many of his pieces for them.

Anna Maria longs to learn who her parents are. Sister Laura instructs Anna Maria to share her most inner thoughts and aspirations into letters to the mother she has never known. She soon rises to become Vivaldi's favorite and he composes challenges pieces for her to play.

But Anna Maria longs to learn who she is and longs to see Venice. On more than one occasion, she manages to escape from the orphanage. Each time she is caught and punished. A small golden locket and chain is presented to her by a Jewish seamstress. Anna Maria knows it holds the secret of her parentage. Eventually, Anna Maria does learn the truth about herself and some of the other characters.

Behind the masks of Carnivale and the musical scores of Vivaldi, 18th century Venice comes brilliantly to life. In this passionate novel, Vivaldi is seen through the eyes of Anna Maria. The plot takes several twists and turns that enthrall the reader. The details of history are well researched and the imagery sensational.

The prose is lyrical and mesmerizing at times.
Quick has included a glossary at the end to help the reader with Italian words and phrases. At the end, Barbara Quick describes what is historical fact and what she created from her imagination. This is a complex tale and will appeal to lovers of Italian history as well as fans of Vivaldi and his music. Barbara Quick has written a truly enduring coming of age story.

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