on 25 June 2001
﻿I found The Masque of the Gonzagas. enormously enjoyable. Every now and then, while reading it, I had a jump of surprise and pleasure, often at the tiniest detail and intimation of the scholarship of this talented authoress. The Duke playing cards and observing, poker- faced, that he had a hand full of cups, for instance. I wonder how many readers will be aware that our present-day playing cards originated with the lesser Arcana of the Tarot in which swords, cups, clubs and money were the four suits? And again, the reference to the bravos. I think this is only the second time I have come across this term, the first being when I read The Betrothed. The medical details, too, were excellent and wonderfully free from the usual howlers. It's a gripping book, that, remarkably, succeeds in combining elegant and literary writing, fascinating content and brilliant colour with that quality of interest-usually to be found only in a much inferior class of writing- that has the reader turning the pages almost before they are read. The book had another effect on this reader and, I hope, will have on many others. Since I finished it I have been listening repeatedly to Claudio Monteverdi's madrigals. They are not immediately appealing but, on repetition, their wonderful qualities gradually become apparent. After reading Clare Colvin's novel I feel I know the guy and am a bit ashamed that for all these years I've been neglecting his music. She has painted a
graphic and compelling portrait of this remarkable man. I am so grateful to Miss Colvin for bringing Monteverdi to my attention-and for giving me such an absorbing and satisfying read. I'm sure that many other readers will have the same reaction to both aspects.