Thursday, July 3, 2014

Shelf Life [adult]

The Venetian BargainThe Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato
@SPL: FIC Fiora

From this author of several novels set in historical Italy comes The Venetian Bargain, but this one has a twist – it begins not in the Venetian lagoon, but in 16th century Constantinople, with a young woman who is a doctor to the late Sultan’s wife. She learns that the new Sultan is bent on a terrible revenge against those who defeated the Ottoman Empire at the Battle of Lepanto, one that will bring certain death to the entire city. For the young doctor, Feyra Adalet bint Timurhan Murad, this is sad news, but not devastating – after all, Venice is the enemy. But when she finds herself in immediate and mortal danger when a long-kept secret is revealed, Feyra is forced to flee to the very city she fears to give a warning message to the Doge himself.

The Doge has plans to avoid the plague already – he has ordered the city’s most famous architect, Andrea Palladio, to build the greatest church ever imagined - a physical plea to God to spare their city on the sea. And while they labour, a young Venetian doctor abandons the practices of his colleagues and sets up a hospital on a separate island he calls Lazzaretto Vecchio – the quarantine island. When he discovers Feyra’s skill, Eastern and Western medicine come together to cure the plague, but not before another apocalyptic event strikes the city.

Fiorato takes these separate and unique threads and weaves them into a rich tapestry of storytelling. She is a student of history and it shows in the details: Venice and Constantinople did suffer from waves of the bubonic plague in the 1500’s, Venice did establish a “quarantine island” for victims, and during this time an architect named Palladio did construct one of the landmark churches of Venice, the Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore – the Church of the Most Holy Redeemer. However, after reading how Fiorato inspires her architect in the novel, I’d wager you will never look at it in the same way again.

This review was published int he Stratford Gazette. Written by Robyn Godfrey, Collections and Outreach Librarian.

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