I have recently enjoyed reading Water Music, a novella by Australian author Christine Balint, which is set in 18th century Venice. The heroine takes up a position at a convent, which is a prestigious musical orphanage for girls, and she trains as a violinist there. I had no idea such institutions existed and was interested that there were places which gave professional musical training to women. The novella was well written and evocative.
Venice is such a glorious city and a beautiful setting for novels. L.P. Harley (author of The Go-Between) fell in love with the watery city and went there annually for years (he especially liked the handsome gondolieri). His novel Simonetta Perkins is about a woman who falls in love with a gondolier. Sally Vickers’ Miss Garnet’s Angel is another lovely novel set there, focussing on one of the city’s many ancient churches. Thomas Mann’s novella Death in Venice doesn’t give quite such a rosy view of the city, but is a powerful piece of writing. And there’s Henry James’ The Aspern Papers and The Wings of the Dove – both of those works have been filmed.
If you’ve never read Donna Leon’s Inspector Brunetti series of crime novels, that’s a lovely summer reading project for you. She brings Venice alive, and you want to immediately rush to Brunetti’s apartment, with its view of the water, and sit down to enjoy one of Paola’s memorable meals. I think Covid has been good for Venice – it stopped those huge cruise ships which disgorged thousands of tourists into crowded streets. Those tourists slept on the ship, ate on the ship, and apart from buying some Venetian glass, did little to support the local economy, and the ships polluted the lagoon. Donna Leon has moved away from the city she so loved because the crowds had become impossible.
Water Music by Christine Balint
The Go-Between by L. P. Hartley
Simonetta Perkins by L. P. Hartley
Miss Garnet’s Angel by Salley Vickers
Death in Venice and Other Stories by Thomas Mann
The Aspern Papers by Henry James
The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
Death at la Fenice by Donna Leon