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The Gondola Maker

The Gondola Maker

4.2 7
by Laura Morelli

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Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called "The Genuine Article" and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg,


Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called "The Genuine Article" and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, "What's the difference between art and craft?" was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.

Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy.

Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 01/27/2014
Sixteenth-century Venice is the star of Morelli’s well-crafted historical novel about teenage Luca Vianello, the eldest son and heir of the city’s most renowned gondola builder. After his beloved mother dies during childbirth at the age of 44, Luca argues with his father and blames him for the tragedy. In a rage, Luca accidently sets fire to his father’s workshop and leaves home. Luca works a succession of menial jobs under an alias, until he becomes the personal gondolier of a noted artist named Trevisan and finds himself smitten with a stunning young woman whom Trevisan is painting. While a wealth of period lore and beautifully rendered setting—the city’s unique sounds, smells, and heritage—dominate her novel, Morelli creates poignantly convincing characters in this handsome coming-of-age novel about adoration, pain, and destiny.
Kirkus Reviews
The heir to a gondola empire rejects his birthright but comes full circle in this fascinating glimpse into late-Renaissance Venice by art historian–turned-novelist Morelli (Made in Italy, 2008). Twenty-two-year-old Luca Vianello believes his left-handedness to be his greatest curse, until the death of his beloved mother right after she gives birth. Luca's rage at seeing his father--whom he blames for his mother's frequent, ill-fated pregnancies--at work so soon after her death results in a tragic fire at his family's squero (a gondola boatyard). Fleeing his home, his betrothed and his trade, Luca ends up on the streets of Venice. Unable to fully escape his heritage, he finds a position as a gondolier. Eventually, in a life-altering move, he becomes private boatman to Trevisan, a successful artist. Luca is introduced--first in a painting, then in the flesh--to the beautiful Giuliana Zanchi, with whom he becomes infatuated. She hires him to perform side jobs for her, and the two eventually become friends. While restoring an old gondola of Trevisan's that was made in his family's squero, Luca, and eventually Trevisan, recognizes that he is in his own right a craftsman, a true artist. But when Luca becomes aware that Giuliana is in danger, he risks everything to save her. Vulnerable, honorable Luca will tug at readers' heartstrings, while author Morelli's evocative descriptions of late-16th-century Venice and its inhabitants alternately captivate and nauseate, with accurate depictions of personal and public hygiene. The paucity of dialogue does little to slow the novel's pace, and long paragraphs of Luca's self-reflection can be surprisingly interesting. Under Morelli's deft pen, the gondola- and oar-making trades are elevated to the historic art forms they really were. Adeptly explores the consequences of pride and respect for women against the backdrop of Renaissance Italy.

Product Details

Laura Morelli
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6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.67(d)

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The Gondola Maker 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Chrissy_W More than 1 year ago
Did I enjoy this book: It was ok in its best moments. If I hadn’t agreed to read this book to write a review, I’d have stopped reading at chapter 17 – that’s the moment the story went way off the rails for me. I was reading the story from the first person point of view of a gondola maker. He’s pretty much an every day guy except he caught his father’s boat on fire and ran away from his family. Or at least that’s what I thought the story was about. In Chapter 17, a new character jumps in the novel to show us his life from the third person point of view. This guy is some pervert who pays men to let him rape their daughters and then paint pictures of them. It was like fictional whiplash. Where did that come from? And while she had minimal grammatical issues, this already awkward chapter said, “After the fact, she is no longer be marriageable anyway.” Major unexplained point of view shifts coupled with a typo that makes the sentence nonsensical killed the story right there in Chapter 17. Since I agreed to review the book I kept reading, but from that point on I was grouchy. A grouchy reviewer notices sentences like the one that began Chapter 25, “Morning sunbeams streak down the canal, imparting radiance to even the most dingy facades, and I feel I can smell the arrival of spring.” A run-on sentence with two unrelated topics? Now I’m really grouchy. Fiction is hard. This read more like non-fiction with flowery language. We need dynamic heroes, revolting villains, conflict, conflict, and did I mention conflict?  Would I recommend it: No. As reviewed by Belinda at Every Free Chance Books.  Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange  for an honest review.
mcschoon More than 1 year ago
This book was so lovely. It was beautifully written, and the story was wonderful. I did not want it to end. Ms. Morelli reconstructed Venice, the society and the arts of manual labor skillfully. I felt completely immersed in the time, place and poor Luca's life. I wish the book hadn't ended where it did, but I love that the most important aspect was resolved: Luca finding his place for himself. Now he just needs to find a suitable wife :) I think the pacing, character development and writing style were spot on. There are a handful of typographical errors though. Overall, I definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in historical fiction or coming of age stories. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
sharris0 More than 1 year ago
The Gondola Maker is an incredibly engaging and well written historical fiction. It’s not a particularly exciting page-turner, it’s about a gondola maker’s son finding his own way in life in the 1500’s Venice, but you will become very engaged in the story nonetheless due to the beautiful way that Morelli writes. There is so much in-depth detail about Venice in the 1500’s that you truly feel like you are there and can fully picture each situation. I never found it boring, which is amazing since I usually get bored with too much detail, but because it weaves into the story so effortlessly, it was able to keep my interest the entire book. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone that enjoys historical fiction, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for more books by Morelli.  I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This historical fiction set in 16th century Venice was fascinating in its detail of gondola building trade.  The story follows the journey of a young man, the son of a prominent gondola maker.  Luca is destined to become an artisan skilled in the craft of his family when a tragedy occurs.  He leaves the family business and finds himself employed in a number of menial jobs.  Eventually he returns to the trade he was born to and is challenged to create a masterpiece.   I found the detailed description of the gondola trade specifically and the political background of the craftsmen’s guilds in general  very interesting.  The power of the guilds and their actions, as outlined by the author, were well researched and gave me different perspective of this era.  I truly enjoyed this story. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. 
KMH3030 More than 1 year ago
The Gondola Maker is an impressive historical novel set in Venice in the mid 1500s, that follows Luca, a young heir to a famed gondola making business. He has his destiny set out before him- work in his father’s shipyard helping to create the city’s most impressive gondolas, marry a girl from a family that is part of an acceptable guild, and eventually inherit and continue on in his father’s footsteps. But Luca wishes for more than what is set out in front of him, and through an accident in his father’s shipyard, he must set out on his own and build his own life. This is a richly detailed story about life in Venice the 16th century. I loved how much the author was able to bring the beautiful city to life, as well as made the story so real. All of the detail about city life, guilds, people, customs, etc. made the story so transformative and engaging. This is a great story for someone who likes period detail and a great story of making your own destiny. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
Sveta85 More than 1 year ago
This is a slow and meticulous well-written book. As a reviewer mentioned on goodreads, it doesn't have elements that would be considered exciting page-turners such as hidden secrets or mystery or murder and so forth, but what it does have is a strange gripping beauty of its own, something akin to studying a sunset for the long time and not being able to look away. I really enjoyed the pacing of  the story as well as the story itself, and how fascinating the life of gondoliers is. What might slightly help is having a short dictionary of Italian words and their definitions because I do admit that I got lost a little with some Italian words. The book is well researched and well-written and if you're looking for a read to slow down and enjoy, then this is the right book.
Mirella More than 1 year ago
Synopsis From the author of Made in Italy comes a tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world's most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.  When Luca Vianello, the heir to a renowned gondola-making enterprise, experiences an unexpected tragedy in the boatyard, he believes that his destiny lies elsewhere. Soon he finds himself drawn to restore an antique gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride. Lovers of historical fiction will appreciate the authentic details of gondola craftsmanship, along with an intimate first-person narrative set against the richly textured backdrop of 16th-century Venice. Review The Gondola Maker is a unique novel set in 16th century Venice. Luca Vianello is the eldest son of a gondola maker. Like his father and grandfather before him, Luca is expected to inherit and run the family business. His parents want him to marry a girl in order to form an alliance between their two families. A tragic accident causes Luca to flee, leaving his family and the business behind. As he creates a future for himself, his personal journey becomes compelling and the knowledge of his craft is never out of his mind.  Author Laura Morelli has delved deeply into the Venetian Republic and the historic craft of gondola making, not only describing the process, but also its history, why gondolas are black, why they were burned, and the strict code of the gondoliers with their secret language used to manuever the vessels through the numerous canals and waterways. The story flows beautifully, unimpeded by the details and historical research. It is all the lesser known details about Venice that truly makes this novel stand out among all others. Born with Venetian roots, I truly loved this story because of its compelling characters, vivid descriptions, and that it taught me much that I never knew before about this fascinating city.