Title: The Violinist of Venice
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Format: eARC, kindly provided
by St. Martin's Press for review.
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: 15th December 2015
My rating: 4 / 5
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.
-- As seen on Goodreads
Since I began blogging almost two years ago, Young Adult has become my usual go-to zone for new books to read. I love it with all my heart – and I doubt that will ever change – but a little breathing room from the things we love is a pretty good idea from time to time! Recently I’ve tried to get back into reading some adult fiction, and when I got the opportunity to read The Violinist of Venice, it immediately sparked my interest and I jumped at the chance to review it.
Adriana d’Amato, our main character and narrator, is a young woman of 18 when the story begins, and has grown up under the strict, isolating and domineering rule of her father, Enrico d’Amato. According to the custom of the day and the class she was born into, she has little say in what her future holds, and she is seen more as a bargaining chip to be used for her father’s gain, rather than a beloved daughter. Encouraged by her mother to play the violin since childhood, she was forbidden from pursuing her passion after her mother’s death. Adriana is determined to find a way to keep music in her life, and she decided to sneak off unbeknownst to her father to get private violin lessons from Antonio Vivaldi. With a shared passion for music, the pair begins to fall in love, yet it is a love they know is strictly forbidden, and would have catastrophic consequences should it come to light.
The first thing I have to mention is how beautifully written the novel is. I absolutely loved the writing style, and I was drawn into the story after only a handful of sentences, and it kept me captivated and enthralled from beginning it end. It was so easy to visualise Venice is the early 1700s, and also to get a sense of just how limiting life was for women in the time-period. I loved how music was incorporated seamlessly into the story, and it really took on a life of its own and added so much atmosphere and vibrancy. My only little issue, and the best way I can describe it, is that sometimes the pacing felt like it hit an unexpected pothole and things slowed down a little too much. This could be because what I know about the technical ins and outs of violins and how to play them could be contained within a teaspoon, so most of the more technical moments went whoosh right over my head. I think this is purely me, in honesty: I love listening to classical music, but I have limited knowledge beyond the very basics.
Adriana was a fabulous character, and I loved seeing her journey throughout the book. It’s not your classic happy-happy story, but a more realistic one, and it’s impossible not to be moved with what she goes through, and to root for her to find a little happiness along the way. Being honest, though, I wasn’t fully convinced of the love and the intensity of feelings between Adriana and Antonio. I don’t really know what it was that was missing for me, but it just didn’t feel… complete, for want of a better word.
Overall, The Violinist of Venice was a captivating story from the very start, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction, and to those that are just branching into the genre. I thought it was a truly spectacular debut novel that captured 18th century Venice brilliantly and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future.