Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A House Near Luccoli by DM Denton

Over three years since the charismatic composer, violinist, and singer Alessandro Stradella sought refuge in the palaces and twisted alleys of Genoa, royally welcomed despite the alleged scandals and even crimes that forced him to flee from Rome, Venice, and Turin, his professional and personal life have begun to unravel again. He is offered, by the very man he is rumored to have wronged, a respectable if slightly shabby apartment and yet another chance to redeem his character and career. He moves in to the curiosity and consternation of his caretakers, also tenants, three women whose reputations are of concern only to themselves. Donatella, still unmarried in her mid-thirties, is plainly irrelevant. Yet, like the city she lives in, there are hidden longings in her, propriety the rule, not cure, for what ails her. She cares more for her bedridden grandmother and cats than overbearing aunt, keeping house and tending to a small terraced garden, painting flowers and waxing poetic in her journal. At first, she is in awe of and certain she will have little to do with Stradella. Slowly, his ego, playfulness, need of a copyist and camouflage involve her in an inspired and insidious world, exciting and heartbreaking as she is enlarged by his magnanimity and reduced by his missteps, forging a friendship that challenges how far she will go.

A House Near Luccoli is a character-driven novel about the flamboyant Baroque composer, Alessandro Stradella. 

Recognized as a genius, he is wildly eccentric and irresistibly charming. His bold, gregarious personality, eccentric manner, and ungodly manners both endear and repel. The disreputable Stradella flees to Genoa after a scandalous affair and a botched attempt at embezzling money from the Catholic Church, he arrives in Genoa. He moves into to an apartment in the same house where the unmarried, youthful spinster Donatella. She is thrilled when he hires her as his copyist. Donatella soon succumbs to this enigmatic man his fascinating life and work. The more she is drawn into his life, the more she must struggle to maintain her own identity.

Author DM Denton writes with verve and great style. In Alessandro and Donatella she has recreated the romance between them with vivid believability. The 17th century is a period of extremes – lavish wealth and devastating poverty, lofty heights and dire circumstances. As the story unfolds and more of each character is revealed, I got a strong sense of the times, its foods, clothing, music, and art. Alessandro is a lovable rogue, a bad boy who never seems to learn from his mistakes. Ultimately, it all catches up to him in a tragic ending.

I always enjoy novels of unique historical settings with lesser known heros and heroines of the times. This is one such novel. Very well put together and researched. Highly recommended.  

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