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#92 ~ The Four Seasons

Four Seasons, The: A Novel of Vivaldi’s Venice by Laurel Corona

Earlier this year I read and reviewed The Venetian Mask by Rosalind Laker. I enjoyed learning about Venetian history and about the Pieta specifically. So, when I was offered the opportunity to read The Four Seasons, a novel about the Pieta and Venice during the time of Antonio Vivaldi, I jumped at the chance. This novel tells the story of two sisters, Maddalena and Chiaretta, who were left anonymously at the Pieta by the mother who could not care for them both. She may have been a courtesan because she left them with the money needed to keep them together through Chiaretta’s infancy. As they grew, their talents led them to different destinies. Chiaretta beauty and outstanding singing voice led her to fame and marriage. Maddalena’s quiet nature and inborn love for the violin and its music were what attracted Vivaldi’s attention.

The relationship between these sisters was close and loving. It was as if when they were branded with the letter “P” on the bottom of their feet together that their hearts were seared together. The most beautiful scenes in this book are when they fight for each other. Each season of their lives brought them closer together. That they would gladly take on the world for each other was always apparent. What was somewhat disappointing was that there wasn’t a compelling reason for them to fight.

I enjoy a strong heroine, but I love her best when she is pitted against a worthy adversary. This villain never made an appearance in The Four Seasons. While Maddalena and Chiaretta wrote back and forth about how one violin tutor was the devil, she didn’t ever do anything to either of the sisters to invite such wrath. Their name calling felt more like children being children than a statement of fact. Vivaldi was to impotent and pitiful for me to fully grasp Maddalena’s connection to him after he first left her without a word. Perhaps what I needed to truly bring this to life was an intrinsic love for music that Maddalena Rossa did. Even as someone without a note of musical talent in my body, I could sense the author’s love for music as she painted the pictures of Vivaldi and his must together working on his compositions. While I appreciate that it does for the characters and is beautifully written, it was off in the distance for me. Perhaps if I was there in the room with them I would have sensed the danger that always lingered between the two of them. Ultimately, Anna Giraud showed up too late to be the nemesis I longed for.

Venice is a city with almost a split personality. On one hand, you have city’s religious life. The Roman Catholic Church and its institutions played a large roll in the city and its citizens. On the other hand, there are the masks, the courtesans, and the night life. So long as the person was discrete, no harm was done either socially or, so it seems, spiritually. Corona captures this best in this novel when Maddalena barely blinks an eye when she discovers the type of life that Chiaretta leads after her marriage. This seems to be part of the reason why the Pieta and three other ospedali came into existence.

Despite lacking drama, I enjoyed reading The Four Seasons from start to finish. The love story between Maddalena and Chiaretta is beautiful. It also reignited my desire to read more about Venice. I absolutely love the flavor that city had in the 17th and 18th centuries. I will most definitely be looking for other novels about this city, especially those that focus on the lives of those outside of the Pieta’s walls. This reviewer is ready to read about how those ospedali were filled.

11 Comments

  • At 2008.08.05 22:29, Devourer of Books said:

    The pieta is so interesting, we need to find a REALLY good novel describing it, instead of these “pretty good, but…” novels.

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    • At 2008.08.06 02:08, Jena said:

      oooh, that sounds interesting!

      • At 2008.08.06 07:46, fyreflybooks said:

        Anne Rice’s Cry to Heaven is not set exclusively in Venice, but there’s enough there that it sticks out in my mind when you mentioned it. It’s one of her better stand-alones – tons of historical info on opera and the castrati (although some pretty frank discussion of homosexual sex, if you’re squeamish about that sort of thing).

        I know there are a bunch of other books I’ve read about Venice, but absolutely none of them are coming to mind at the moment… I’ll have to keep thinking.

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        • At 2008.08.06 11:32, Literate Housewife said:

          I’ll have to check out the Anne Rice book. I’ve never read anything that she’s written before. I’ll probably be fine with the sex parts, but you can easily speed read past those sections if they go beyond your comfort level. If you think of anything else, I’d love to add those to my TBR as well!

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          • At 2008.08.06 12:49, fyreflybooks said:

            Several of Anne Rice’s vampire books also take place (at least in part) in Venice, but they’re in the middle of the series, so they’re probably not so good for reading on their own.

            There’s also The Silent Gondoliers by William Goldman (of The Princess Bride fame), which is a very short children’s fable set in Venice.

            Browsing through my LT library, I’ve also got The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke (author of the Inkheart YA books) and In the Company of the Courtesan by Sarah Dunant listed as being set in Venice, but I haven’t read either of them yet, so I can’t tell you if they’re any good. 🙂

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            • At 2008.08.07 15:14, Matthew said:

              Consider the beautiful story line and that it took place in Venice during Vivaldi’s time, this book will be a must-read for me. Thanks for the heads up. 🙂

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              • At 2008.08.09 04:15, Literate Housewife said:

                Fyrefly, what great suggestions! I’ll be looking for them. Thank you so much!
                ___
                Matthew, I think you will enjoy the book. It was good, I just wanted more conflict. Also keep The Venetian Mask in mind, too.

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                • […] wrote two reviews last week as well: The Four Seasons and Surviving Ben’s Suicide. Writing my review for The Four Seasons was difficult because […]

                  • At 2008.09.25 19:36, Barbara Quick said:

                    Readers who would like to read more about the Ospedale della Pieta during the time of Vivaldi’s tenure there might also enjoy my 2007 novel VIVALDI’S VIRGINS (HarperCollins), which has just been published in a paperback reprint with a big history supplement at the back. VIVALDI’S VIRGINS was named one of the 10 best books of summer by Redbook Magazine, was an Editor’s Choice for the Historical Novels Review, named a Notable Novel by BookSense, and the best novel of 2007 by the Montserrat Review. Twelve translations have been sold (the Dutch, Spanish, Hebrew and Russian editions have already been published.) See a book trailer, download a podcast of music from the novel, and read more at http://www.BarbaraQuick.com

                    • At 2008.10.22 17:10, Katherine said:

                      If you’re interested in 18th century Venice, you might also be interested in The Venetian Affair, by Andrea Di Robilant. Very good (true) story of a famous love affair.

                      • […] certainly wasn’t Homer. Realizing I had read and enjoyed Laurel Corona’s first novel The Four Seasons, which made me much happier and must have been what prompted me to say […]

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