Sunday, March 17, 2013

Review: The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato

Title: The Glassblower of Murano
Author: Marina Fiorato
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Published: 2009
Pages: 368

Rating: 5 out of 10

After her husband leaves her, Leonora Manin decides to pursue her dream of moving to Venice and learning the art of glassblowing. Her 17th Century ancestor, Corradino Manin, was one of the most famed glassblowers in history, and Leonora has always felt a connection with him. Upon moving to Italy and beginning work, Leonora meets a handsome Italian man and makes a home for herself. However, the prestigious view she holds of her ancestor, as well as her new life, start to melt away when she begins to doubt everything about her family legacy, and about Corradino himself.

This was a quite fun, breezy read that I got through in one sitting. Besides following Leonora's modern story, it also switches back and forth between Corradino in Renaissance Venice.

The author, Marina Fiorato, tells us on the back cover, the introduction, the reader's guide (anywhere she can slip it in, really) that she loves Italy and has lived in Venice. And don't forget the Italian wedding, too. Want to see a photo? Here you go.
Despite the annoying fact that she obviously wants every reader to know how "Italian" she is, I have to admit that she did have a charming way of bringing Venice to life. She seemed to struggle a bit with bringing out the old Venice in the parts where Corradino is the focus, but in the Leonora parts, her picture of the scenery remains fresh, realistic, and detailed.
Much like Leonora, I have always had a dream of moving to Venice. It is my favorite city on earth, even though I have never been there.
Because of this, I was probably more than biased toward Leonora's journey and settling into her new home. Walking through streets and drifting along canals, going to hidden away little Venetian coffee shops, disdainfully separating oneself from the tourists, and especially the decorating of her new apartment all seemed dreamy to me. I kept picturing myself doing these exact same things, especially the setting up of the apartment.

However, as much as I loved putting myself into Leonora's Venetian footsteps, I also recognize that these little tidbits didn't do anything for the story. They established a setting, but they probably lingered a bit too long.

I thought that the idea of glassblowing sounded amazing, so I quickly looked it up on Wikipedia in the middle of the book.
I was aghast at what I learned simply by skimming the page. Fiorato certainly did terrible research if a 5 minute look at Wikipedia can tell me that many of the facts introduced here are wrong.
Molten glass is 2400°F, but in the book, both Corradino and Leonora touch it with their bare hands. Corradino's secret to making mirrors is revealed at the end of the book, and it was also impossible. Today we use other molten metals to create flat mirrors, but a key point is - molten. They are fired up to volcanic heat. In the book, Corradino uses a cool, room temperature method, which would not work.
I was extremely disappointed to discover that such an important feature of this book had been so grossly brushed over in the research area.

Even though I normally can't stand modern stories, but love historical fiction above any other genre, this book could have done without the chapters alternating back to the Renaissance. I didn't feel that the two stories went together very well at all. Leonora is always talking about the connection she feels with Corradino, but I couldn't see it. Maybe it was simply because he was in such a man's world, she in such a feminine mindset. But even besides that, their lives were not all that similar, and it just didn't work in my opinion.

Corradino never came across to me as a character, while at least Leonora seemed to have a personality.
In the first few chapters, practically all we hear is Corradino praising himself. He keeps telling us what an amazing craftsman he is, and how he is the very best glassblower in the whole world. He is always saying things like "I don't tell anyone my glassblowing techniques, but even if I did, no one else would be able to do it like me." Or for another example, "I have never let anyone read my book on glassblowing, but even if they did read it, they wouldn't understand." It got old very quickly, but Corradino goes on and on about his brilliance.

The romance scenes were cheesy, and the twist in the relationship seemed cliche and obvious.

All in all, I have to say that this wasn't a well written book. But it was easy to read, and I enjoyed it because the main character lived a dream of mine.