Venetian Mask – Book Review

Venetian Mask cover LT Early Reviewer Badge The Venetian Mask was my March Early Reviewer book from LibraryThing. The book, originally published in the early 1990s, has been reprinted and rereleased by Three Rivers Press.

This is the story of Marietta and Elena, two orphaned girls who meet at the Ospedale della Pieta, essentially a Venetian orphanage/music school. Circumstance finds the girls in their 20s and married Venice’s version of the Montagues and the Capulets: the Ceranos and the Torrisis, between whom was vendetta.

Perhaps the best developed characters in the novel were the Pieta and late 18th-century Venice. The Pieta was strict and watchful, but also kind in offering its girls a home and a future. Venice was just the opposite: secretive and debauched, violent, corrupt, and ruthless. Yet Venice was also alluring, freeing, and very attractive to the girls shut away in the strictures of the Pieta.

Unfortunately, Marietta and Elena, not to mention their friends Adrianna and Bianca, were not nearly as well developed as the Pieta and Venice. They are relatively shallow characters with valid but not complex motives for their actions.

To me, the most enjoyable part of the story was not the oft-mindless plot, but the glimpses of life in 18th-century Venice. For example, I had never heard of the completely different sort of orphanage that was the Pieta, nor did I know about the placing of denunciations in the Lion’s Mouth. Also quite interesting was the culture of mask wearing and secrecy of Venice. Lastly I learned of the significance to Venice of the Napoleonic Wars, which I did not previous know.

The storyline of this book is not fantastic, but it does seem that Ms. Laker did her research into the life and culture of Venice and, for that, the book was enjoyable.

Buy this book on Amazon: The Venetian Mask: A Novel

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5 Responses to “Venetian Mask – Book Review”

  1. Literate Housewife Says:

    I’m about 50 odd pages into this book myself. It sounds like your opinions are consistent with the other ARC members. Even though I haven’t gotten very far at all, I can definitely see what you are saying about the Pieta and Venice as characters.

  2. kegsoccer Says:

    I had hoped to get this as an Early Reviewer on LibraryThing but now I’m glad I got something else. Do you consider it worthwhile to buy it, just for the details about life and culture of Venice? Or should I skip it?

  3. Devourer of Books Says:

    It is a reprint, so you might be able to find it somewhere used. If you’re a fan of historical fiction for the sake of picking things up about different places and historical settings, grab it if you can find it cheap. Don’t pay full price, though.

  4. kegsoccer Says:

    Good to know. I do like historical fiction, so I’ll around for a cheap copy :) Thanks.

  5. #67 ~ The Venetian Mask « The Literate Housewife Review Says:

    […] and the parties. I am also interested in learning more about the city’s history. Much like Devourer of Books, I found Venice to be equally compelling and perhaps more fleshed than Marietta or Elena. […]

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