Two stories, woven together by ancestry and tradition, make up Marina Fiorato’s new historical novel, The Glassblower of Murano. The first story introduces us to Coradino Manin, a skilled glassblower of the 17th century, whose talents saved his life but also made him a target for the Council of Ten, a powerful and a dangerous group of Venetians. Desperate to free himself and his illegitimate daughter, who is being raised as an orphan, Coradino seizes an opportunity that jeopardizes his very life while marking him in history as the greatest glassblower the world has ever known.
The second story in the novel introduces us to Leonora Manin, a descendant of Coradino’s, who has fled from her broken life to Venice. Her desire to follow in her ancestor’s footsteps and become a Venetian glassblower leads her to the same studio and company that once produced the works of Coradino. The business has faltered in the centuries since her ancestor’s glory years and Leonora’s presence offers a unique advertising opportunity for the company. However, bearing the Manin name isn’t always easy and Leonora struggles in her new life to find excitement, recognition, love, and herself.
These two stories are intertwined, taking the reader from the 17th century to modern day Venice and back again. Since both characters were working as glassblowers in a city that is relatively unchanged in the last three centuries, the book flows easily in and out of time. It is obvious that Fiorato did her homework on this one, since the book is thick with historical detail and interesting context for the adventures of the novel’s two heroes. Indeed, the scenery in this story is easily as enthralling as the lives of Coradino and Leonora.
Although The Glassblower of Murano wasn’t one of the best books I read this year, it was an enjoyable and fast read. The family dramas and love stories are slightly predictable, but Marina Fiorato’s rich depictions of Venice, both contemporary and in the 17th century, make it easy to get lost in her world. I’m not familiar with the art of glassblowing and found the parts of the book that take place in the studio to be fascinating. All in all, if the characters aren’t too memorable, my desire to fly to Venice after reading this book was definitely strong enough to make it a worthwhile read.
Carly lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and their two cats. Her favorite thing to do is to curl up by a window with a library book.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.