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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
From a cache of letters discovered in the attic of his family palazzo, Italian journalist Andrea Di Robilant reconstructs the spellbinding story of a forbidden love affair between his 18th-century patrician ancestor Andrea Memmo and an illegitimate Anglo-Venetian beauty named Giustiniana Wynn. Tainted by her pedigree, Giustiniana was an unthinkable match for Andrea, the favored son of one of Venice's founding families. Nonetheless, in defiance of every convention of the day, their grand passion played itself out for seven long years in the waning light of the once-glorious Venetian Republic.
Originally written in code, the correspondence at the heart of this elegant, expertly paced narrative illuminates both the clandestine nature of the relationship and the conspiratorial tone of the times. Intrigue abounds, as the shrewd and calculating lovers outwit parents, overcome obstacles, and hatch outrageous schemes to stay together -- including a real doozy that involves marrying Giustiniana off to a wealthy old man! Of particular historical interest is the intermittent presence in the story of that infamous libertine Casanova, who proves himself a true friend, especially to Giustiniana.
As the letters end, so does the affair. But in his sweetly satisfying epilogue, Di Robilant assures us that both parties went on to live "full and fascinating lives" -- Andrea as a great Venetian statesman and Giustiniania as an accomplished writer. Although they went their separate ways, they remained close, connected by the relative smallness of their world and by the complex bonds of a remarkable first love -- a love gloriously celebrated in this thoroughly satisfying biography. Anne Markowski