Venice is ripe with mystery and sensuality. In this book, her colors are breathtaking, her aura serene. Kathryn Walker’s prose is exquisite as she paints a hint of romance, mixed in with the discovery of 16th century art and treasured pieces of renaissance. The cover, title and synopsis tempted me straight away because I find the marriage of renaissance and fiction utterly irresistible. However, by the end of the book, I found myself a bit lost in the details, asking questions, a lot of them.
If you are to write a book, about any magical city, in this case – Venice – you have to draw me in, slowly. You have to give me a feeling in my core that I am about to fall in love with the unknown, that I know the end will leave me breathless, or at the very least, content. A book, well worth my time. Well, er, you get my drift. Realistically speaking, it does not happen all that often, when it does, it is literary bliss. This was not it, I mean I liked it, I inhaled it – as I usually do with any new book- oh all right, I admit I am a bit strange, I love the smell of a book, but, that is beside the point. I did not like it enough to inhale deeply when I was reading and sigh, when it was over. I didn’t miss the characters and I didn’t miss the story. I read somewhere the author was (perhaps) once married to, or in a relationship with James Taylor and the story somehow stemmed from her life experience. It makes sense, I suppose, when I think back to the story…
A young woman, Nel, short for Cornelia( I love the name by the way) still reeling from the devastating loss of her first, great love, thoroughly dissatisfied with her marriage and a somewhat narcissistic, rock star husband, decides to leave him. On the way to Verona, impulse and defiance takes over and she gets off the train. She opens her heart to Venice, while he, continues on his journey. He doesn’t seem to notice she is missing, In fact, he doesn’t seem to notice her at all. When he does, he thinks she is indulging in a little alone time. She has nothing but a credit card, knows no one, doesn’t speak the language and doesn’t quite know what she wants. After living life in her husband’s shadow, Nel wants to re-emerge as her own person, but how? her purpose arrives, suddenly, when she comes face to face with a gang of street kids, terrorizing this tiny, sweet dog. She sneaks him into her hotel and he fills a void in her almost overnight. She wants to adopt him, she has named him Giacomo, and just as she feels there is hope after all, she is confronted by a young man who claims to know the dog’s owner. He, in turn leads her to a glorious but dilapidated palazzo, owned by a Contessa, who takes Nel in. Sensing her loss, her troubled life, she allows Nell to recover, find peace, as together they are launched into a mystery involving the house, a discovery of a fresco and the possibility of a new romance for Nel. As the restoration process intensifies and the fresco is revealed, Nel undergoes her own metamorphosis. This is the essence of the story. Simple, clean, uncomplicated.
The book tends to get lost in detail towards the end. There is certainly much love devoted to art, which I truly appreciated. It definitely was a “stopover.” Nel’s departure from Venice, is almost as quick as her arrival. I also loved Kathryn Walker’s ability to show Venice as it truly is. It is lush and glorious, I followed Nel everywhere. I saw Venice with the same eager eyes, the same enthusiasm and the wide-eyed welcome of anonymity, Nel so badly wanted for herself. I still couldn’t bring myself to fall in love with the book. From a woman’s point of view, I completely understood Nel’s need to re-establish independence, to emerge as an individual and her singular need to move on from a relationship that was tedious. I just didn’t feel it in my heart. Simply put, this book wasn’t what I hoped it would be.