Book Review – The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

Book Review – The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo
Book Review – The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa PalomboThe Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo
Published by Macmillan, St. Martin's Griffin
Publication date: December 15, 2015
Genres: Historical, Romance
448 pages
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher

A sweeping historical novel of composer and priest Antonio Vivaldi, a secret wealthy mistress, and their passion for music and one another

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music-except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class-and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters-but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice-and of Adriana's own choices-will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

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Book Review:

The allure of forbidden romance almost always makes me pick up a book, so when I saw that this book had that and had a musical thread I knew I had to read it. Alyssa Palombo’s debut is a sweeping love story between two people that cannot be together, yet whose love never fades over decades. I enjoyed this book but lack of relationship development early on made it impossible for me to believe the intensity of their romance.

This story is a fictional reimagining of what it might have looked like for Antonio Vivaldi to have a lover in 18th century Venice. Adriana is the daughter of a wealthy merchant whose father has forbidden her from playing any music. She seeks out “The Red Priest”—Vivaldi—to give her violin lessons in secret. After a few months of lessons, their relationship goes beyond that of teacher and pupil and develops romantically. But their love cannot be for several reasons: Vivaldi’s position as a priest and Adriana’s upcoming arranged nuptials. This story spans nearly 40 years through the magic of Venice at the height of the Italian Baroque period.

The amount of research Palambo had to do was evident in the descriptions of the canals, the clothing, the culture, and the numerous music references. The setting in this book was almost a character itself, what  with the author’s vivid descriptions of the gondola rides in the winding canals of Venice and times at the Italian opera. I really enjoyed reading about the Carnival of Venice. I think it would have been so neat to see how it all happened during that time period. The dresses and the night life sounded so fun!

As a classically trained musician myself, I am always weary of reading books with heavy musical elements because the nuances are usually not there. Here, Palambo clearly knows what she is talking about because she’s a musician herself. All of the musical terms were used correctly down to the descriptions of the movements of Vivaldi’s compositions. I loved how she wove in his pieces throughout the story, placing specific pieces deliberately at certain times for high emotional impact. It made me want to turn on my “Best of Vivaldi” CD. (Yes, I have a Best of Vivaldi CD. He’s a Baroque Rock Star. All of his pieces have such a great beat! 😉 ) .

Vivaldi and Adriana’s love story had to develop early on in the book due to all of the action that had to happen. But here, the author failed to fully develop their relationship into something that the reader could truly believe. In a story like this, this type of emotionally devastating romance needs to be strong and believable to carry on in the readers mind for the rest of the novel. We are told that the couple is madly in love by about page 60 but the reader hasn’t really had time to see the two of them together, feel their chemistry, and experience their love story—save for a few music lessons.  In order for me to enjoy the rest of the book, I had to force myself believe that had this earth-shattering love.

* I received an advanced copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book in any way.

The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

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