Title: The Glassblower of Murano
Author: Marina Fiorato
Release Date: May 26, 2009
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Genre: Historical Fiction
Review: LibraryThing Early Reviewers
Rating: 2.5 out of 5
From the publisher’s website:
Venice, 1681. Glassblowing is the lifeblood of the Republic, and Venetian mirrors are more precious than gold. Jealously guarded by the murderous Council of Ten, the glassblowers of Murano are virtually imprisoned on their island in the lagoon. But the greatest of the artists, Corradino Manin, sells his methods and his soul to the Sun King, Louis XIV of France, to protect his secret daughter. In the present day his descendant, Leonora Manin, leaves an unhappy life in London to begin a new one as a glassblower in Venice. As she finds new life and love in her adoptive city, her fate becomes inextricably linked with that of her ancestor and the treacherous secrets of his life begin to come to light.
The Glassblower of Murano is one of those books I really wish I could give a higher rating to. The concept was intriguing – the first female glassblower in Venetian history, who has an ancestor who was one of Venice’s most famous glassblowers. There is a mystery surrounding this ancestor; specifically, whether he may have been a traitor to his people. I thought the conception of the plot was great and I was in for a richly textured and detailed historical fiction read. However, the execution was flawed at best.
I enjoyed getting lost in the city of Venice, past and present, though I wished more details about glassmaking had been included in The Glassblower of Murano. Leonara herself is an interesting character. After suffering heartbreak in her native London, she decides to try her hand at glassmaking in Venice. After all, she is the descendent of the great Corradino Marin; the glassblowing gene is in her blood. I enjoyed reading about her exploration of her family history, though much of it was on the surface.
And therein lies the problem with The Glassblower of Murano – everything is on the surface. It is a light and fluffy novel, which is completely fine, except it is difficult to accomplish that in the historical fiction genre and still write a solid book. The only really developed characters in the book are Corradino and Leonara. There are other extremely interesting people in the book who are completely flat – it would have been nice if Fiorato had developed the characters of Alessandro and Vittoria. There could have been a very interesting storyline there. Unfortunately, Vittoria ends up being a completely peripheral character because her personality isn’t really explored. And it’s difficult to understand why Leonara falls for Alessandro because he isn’t given a personality in the novel.
The glassblowing campaign that Leonara finds herself in the middle of could also have been a really great sub-plot. Unfortunately, again, the execution is just not there. All I could see in this book was potential – the execution was poor. As for the history, I can’t say I learned much that was new with this book. Everything just seemed to be on the surface.
If you are looking for a chick lit-type historical fiction read, then definitely give The Glassblower of Murano a try; its on-the-surface quality will allow for a relaxing read. After all, some of the reviews I’ve read of this book are much more positive than mine. However, if you are looking for a rigorous historical fiction read on Venetian glassblowing with meticulous research and fully developed characters, I would skip this one.