Shawna Lemay’s rich, amused, insistent, ingenious meditation on Venice will surprise readers with its peculiar grace. Here is the work of an elegant raconteur; a self-effacing, sharp-eared occupier of voices; a high-toned, compassionate gossip. From many mouths, she offers us the city, doomed, full of light.
Lemay’s Venice is a small, crowded community of the delightfully eccentric dead. Through her quirky dramatic monologues, each one shimmering with a companionable intelligence, we meet them – George Eliot, Peggy Guggenheim, Lord Byron, Mary Shelley, Effie Ruskin, Ernest Hemingway, Titian, various unnamed others; we meet them in mid-speech; it seems they have never stopped talking, talking, telling now (or refusing still to tell) their secrets, protecting their vanities still, finally saying what they truly think. Lemay has given us an entire world, dark, haughty, watery, beautiful, full of voices, sedimented with stories.