Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Review: The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

From the Back Cover:

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and each other 

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

My Thoughts:

Vivaldi is my absolute favorite composer. I adore the style of his music and think it some of the most complex and beautiful music ever written, and so I could not wait to read Alyssa Palombo's debut novel.

The story is told completely from the point of view of Adriana d'Amato, a young woman isolated from the world by an overbearing father, forbidden to play her beloved violin since the death of her mother. But the call of music is too strong to overcome, so she begins sneaking out to take lessons from the violinist whose music is taking Venice by storm, Antonio Vivaldi, the Red Priest. A sheltered and lonely young woman, Adriana soon finds herself wanting more than just music lessons from the talented man whose passion for music inspires and invigorates her, and though Vivaldi is technically a priest--though not a very good one--the two are soon caught up in a forbidden affair. Though any type of lasting, public relationship between them is impossible, Adriana naively clings to hope that their love will surmount all obstacles. But she is in for a heartbreaking awakening when a series of unfortunate events causes her carefully constructed fantasy to come crashing down around her, and her life is forced onto a path she had not anticipated.

While I enjoyed this novel, I have two main issues with it. The first is that it is slow moving. There are lots of technical bits about music, which I suppose is to be expected in a novel about a composer, but as someone who loves to listen to music but knows nothing of its inner workings, I found those parts a bit dull. It takes about half of the book for the plot to really kick into gear, and it's based on a theory that Anna Giro, whose close relationship with Vivaldi led to his downfall, was actually his daughter. That's a new one to me, but it doesn't seem implausible the way Palombo sets it up.

Second, since we never get a peek inside Vivaldi's head, a tactic that is normally fine with me as I think it often works better when an enigmatic personage from history is viewed through the eyes of another, in this case, I never felt like I really got to know him or his personality. And so that made it hard for me to grasp what Adriana saw in him aside from his brilliant musical ability, although I suppose that would be enough for a young protégée. But what was, for Adriana, a grand, all-consuming passion felt more like simple lust to me. And since I didn't really feel the love between Adriana and Vivaldi, I had a hard time accepting some of the decisions she made. And I had a harder time accepting Vivaldi's choices when Adriana needed him the most, and the excuses she made for him. But as time goes on, she does come through her disillusions with the wisdom and maturity borne of hardship and heartache.

Interestingly enough, the second half of the novel becomes much more engaging and compelling once Adriana and Vivaldi are separated and Adriana is forced to navigate through the consequences of her affair and the life she is left with. I loved the intimate descriptions of Venice during a time in which the once-grand city is falling into disrepair and financial hardship as the aristocracy tries to pretend it is not so. And though life without Vivaldi is not easy for Adriana in the beginning, I loved that she was finally able to come to terms with it and ascend to a place filled with love of family and friends and music, and that after so many years of living in the shadows and striving for the happiness of others, she finally reached for her own happiness.

The Violinist of Venice is an enjoyable book if the reader is willing to stick with the slow-moving first half to get to the heart of the story. Fans of Vivaldi and classical music should definitely check it out for the insight it offers, and fans of romantic historical fiction should find the setting and ambiance captivating and find much to admire in Adriana's rise from the ashes.

My Rating:  3.5 Stars out of 5

*Please Note: This review references an advance copy received from the publisher through the Amazon Vine program. These are my honest and unbiased opinions, and I was not compensated in any other way for reviewing this book.

1 comment:

I love comments! Getting feedback on my posts makes my day! Thanks for being here!