A dark, riveting tale of love, politics, and religion in sixteenth-century Venice--the embodiment of Leonardo da Vinci's ideal city. In early sixteenth-century Italy, two lovers, Loredana and Orso, seem ready to die rather than be separated. Their tale unfolds in the two-tiered city of Venice, where the nobility have the upper tier and the light of the sun, while the common people, with their manual trades, occupy the lower city--the dark tier in the shadows. Violating social and religious ...
A dark, riveting tale of love, politics, and religion in sixteenth-century Venice--the embodiment of Leonardo da Vinci's ideal city. In early sixteenth-century Italy, two lovers, Loredana and Orso, seem ready to die rather than be separated. Their tale unfolds in the two-tiered city of Venice, where the nobility have the upper tier and the light of the sun, while the common people, with their manual trades, occupy the lower city--the dark tier in the shadows. Violating social and religious taboos, the passion of the lovers bridges the two cities. A beautiful young widow, Loredana, dreads the cruel judgment of her family, one of the most powerful houses in republican Venice. Orso--a Dominican friar, mystic, and revolutionary--is in hiding, as the Venetian secret police scour the upper and lower cities for him. When the authorities close in, guardsmen control all streets and waterways, and the two lovers are driven to write out their penitential confessions, unable to reach the one priest who would not betray them. Conjuring up the voices of lovers and of their age through a rich array of letters, confessions, secret-police proceedings, a diary, and a family chronicle, this is an astonishing take of politics, love, lust, and religious incandescence.
The vivid written confessions of a lustful young widow, the eponymous Loredana, and Orso, a Dominican friar with a liberal interpretation of his ecclesiastic vows, are the backbone of this engrossing tale set during the intrigues of Renaissance Venice's Council of Ten. Although the epistolary form can be a cumbersome means of novelistic expression, it is one Martines skillfully manipulates, bringing to life the opulence and grandeur-and the rigid social strata and dark political schemes-of la Serenissima. High-born Loredana begins her lengthy written confession with a chronicle of her disastrous marriage to the abusive Marco, who'd rather have his male lovers seduce her than touch her himself. Orso's confessions (also to Father Clemente) are interspersed; their revelations include his desire for a new Venice, in which the poor would not be kept in filth and darkness while the rich dine sumptuously in sun-filled palazzos. When Loredana returns to her father's home, she begins a life of study and introspection-and then meets Orso. Diary entries by others involved reveal the scandal that the union between Orso and Loredana causes in Venice, which brings the full force of a holy inquisition upon them. Martines's background as a scholar of the Italian Renaissance serves him well in this delicious page-turner of politics and lust. (Dec.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Martines, one of our most distinguished historians of the Italian Renaissance, turns his hand to fiction for the first time and produces a novel as good as anything you will read this season. Set in "the two-tiered city" of Venice in the late 1520s, this tells a tale of passion and duplicity, of revolution and repression, via a pair of doomed lovers: Orso, a Dominican monk drawn into rebellion by the inhumanity of Venice's upper city, where the rich live, and Loredana, an aristocratic widow who learns from an intolerable marriage how little Venice's elite cares about anything other than appearance. (As Orso writes in his confession, "Venice hides its shames.") Martines's graphic description of Loredana's sexual awakening at the hands of her husband's male lovers may shock the prudish but is integral to this ultimately positive story. Written with grace and force, this book is difficult to put down once begun. Enthusiastically recommended.-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Lurid scandal and dark romance liven up the soap opera otherwise known as Renaissance Italy. Martines is a scholar of the Italian Renaissance, and his debut displays an exuberant pleasure in weaving obscure historical details into an operatically passionate love story. The novel is cast as a collection of letters drawn from various secret archives and histories of Venice, a tactic that succeeds in creating an air of mystery and threat while also serving to disclose forms of information that might otherwise be excised from a more standard third-person account. The letters that form the primary material are written by a pair of lovers, Orso, a Dominican friar, and Loredana, a wealthy young widow. Alternating voices reveal a deeply organized, if shadowy world of conspiracies in both politics and love. The city of Venice, divided in half, with the lower classes living in darkness and squalor and the wealthy enjoying sun and spaciousness, is under attack from political provocateurs and religious charismatics. Often working together-indeed, often one and the same person-the agents for political change seek a revolution in Venice. The tale is fast-paced and exciting, moving brilliantly between the dirty streets of lower Venice to the marbled palazzos of the wealthy. Learned but frothy-that rare bodice-ripper that knows the history of the bodice.
A distinguished historian of the Italian Renaissance and former professor of European History at UCLA, Lauro Martines has written a number of nonfiction books about the Renaissance. His most recent book was April Blood: Florence and the Plot Against the Medici (published in the U.S. by Oxford University Press). This is his first novel. He and his wife, novelist Julia O'Faolain, lived in Florence for years and now reside in London.