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Cry to Heaven Mass Market Paperback – 1 Apr 1995
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Praise for Anne Rice and Cry to Heaven
"Daring and imaginative . . . [Anne] Rice seems like nothing less than a magician: It is a pure and uncanny talent that can give a voice to monsters and angels both."--The New York Times Book Review
From the Inside Flap
In this mesmerizing novel, the acclaimed author of THE VAMPIRE CHRONICLES and the LIVES OF THE MAYFAIR WITCHES makes real for us the exquisite and otherworldly society of the eighteenth-century castrati, the delicate and alluring male sopranos whose graceful bodies and glorious voices brought them the adulation of the royal courts and grand opera houses of Europe, men who lived as idols, concealing their pain as they were adored as angels, yet shunned as half-men.
As we are drawn into their dark and luminous story, as the crowds of Venetians, Neopolitans, and Romans, noblemen and peasants, musicians, prelates, princes, saints, and intriguers swirl around them, Anne Rice brings us into the sweep of eighteenth-century Italian life, into the decadence beneath the shimmering surface of Venice, the wild frivolity of Naples, and the magnetic terror of its shadow, Vesuvius. It is a novel that only Anne Rice could have written, taking us into a heartbreaking and enchanting moment in history, a time of great ambition and great suffering--a tale that challenges our deepest images of the masculine and the feminine.
"To read Anne Rice is to become giddy as if spinning through the mind of time."
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Dazzling in its darkness...Spellbinding."
--The New York Times
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Had the book been available as a hardcover I could have finished reading it, but gave up as I no longer
wished to strain my eyes.
A good historical novel about a Castrato, spoiled by not being printed in a size that all could enjoy.
My local charity shop now owns it.
I was bound eventually to read this due to what it has in common with my favourite novel, Mary Renault’s "The Persian Boy". The latter was presumably the main inspiration for Rice choosing a boy eunuch as her main protagonist, since she has said it “profoundly influenced me as a writer” and Renault was “my writing teacher whom I never knew” (to which I say “me too”). Both women write beautifully and evocatively, Rice’s prose being lusher but less lucid. Both give meticulous attention to historical authenticity, which I think indispensable for historical novels. The only flaw I noticed in this respect was the marriage of Carlo Treschi to his step-mother: it is inconceivable he could have got a dispensation for it, and there is no suggestion that her marriage to his father had been annulled.
Evidently massive and painstaking research into eunuchs, eighteenth-century musical training and the great Italian cities of the time was done to achieve this resurrection of a long-forgotten type of human life, and equally considerable imagination has gone into recreating the castrati’s emotions. Much of Rice’s deeper learning could easily pass unnoticed by the uninformed reader, being woven into the story rather than explained. A critically important example is the much higher age at which puberty was then reached. Boys’ voices were not expected to break until they were eighteen. Tonio was still barely pubescent at fifteen, though this had not held him back from experiencing abundant “dry” joy in the beds of a tavern girl and a motherly cousin.
The choice of subject matter obviously sets the story up as especially promising ground for exploration of gender identity and sexuality, and by infusing the story with plenty of eros, Rice far from disappoints. “What in God’s name did they hack away from you that you have laid a siege to the beds of Rome as great as that of the barbarian hordes?” Tonio is asked by the disappointed orchestrator of the theft of his testicles. The answer is little if anything except the means to procreate, which should not surprise anyone except those labouring under the delusion that pre-pub*scent boys are asexual. The castrati are presented as in one respect enjoying an enviable sexual freedom: they can sleep with females without danger of causing pregnancy, while their androgeneity opens possibilities with males. Tonio also enjoys complete freedom from the constraints and unnecessary sense of contradiction that dubious assumptions about fixed orientation impose on people today. With men, he adopts the passive role automatically and fully relishes its physical and emotional joys; with a more feminine boy and later a girl, he equally automatically and happily plays the man. I found all this thoroughly convincing.
The plot is fine and credible except that I found its central premise a bit implausible. The atrocity against Tonio was evidently very risky for its perpetrator, who was frightened with good reason that people would not believe the lies put about that it was Tonio’s choice. Tonio was given every opportunity for exacting immediate revenge through the law, but instead went out of his way to confirm the lies, and chose to wait four years during which he lived always under the dark cloud of unexacted revenge. The explanation given, that he wanted the man who had cruelly wrecked his life to have time to beget sons to continue their family line, feels simply inadequate for a boy in Tonio’s horrific predicament. I also found the story sometimes too drawn out.
Nevertheless, these are minor flaws in a deeply imaginative and haunting story. The three of Tonio’s liaisons that are love affairs are moving, especially the greatest and final one with the beautiful English girl-painter Christina. Above all though, it is the imagined sound of the beautiful, free-spirited boy troubador echoing in exquisite song along the canals and alleys of night-time Venice which continues to ring in my ears.
Edmund Marlowe, author of "Alexander’s Choice", the tragedy of an Eton schoolboy also strongly influenced by "The Persian Boy", amazon.co.uk/dp/1481222112
How much worse to have the mutilation inflicted upon you when you're fifteen, when you've had your first glimpses of what it might mean to be a man, when you've started to think and dream of everything you might do and achieve in just a few more years. How much worse when you're Tonio and the thing you love most in the world - singing - is used against you to rob you of your heritage, your family, your home and everything you thought was waiting for you in the future.
And how very well does Anne Rice share the pain of this loss with her readers. Because this is, for the most part, a story about loss. There is Guido who has to come to terms with the loss of his voice.
"It was as if his own voice had been his lover, and his lover had forsaken him."
And while he finds his salvation in teaching others to sing and writing his masterful songs and operas, it isn't until he hears Tonio's voice and is given the opportunity to mentor him that he finds a new and maybe his true purpose in his life.
Guido may have lost his voice, Tonio loses everything he has ever known when he's just fifteen years old. Exiled from his home in Venice, robbed of his manhood and his inheritance it is no wonder he falls victim to anger and despair.
"No matter how he felt, he would behave as if he did not feel it, and everything would be better."
And even when Tonio does allow his love of singing to ease his pain, the taboos he still has to overcome are as enormous as the mountain he can see from his bedroom in Naples.
But this is also a story about love; love found in the most unexpected places. The love between Guido and Tonio, enduring, volatile but indestructible. The love of music. The love for others, strong, beautiful and engrossing but never replacing or diminishing the love between the teacher and his star pupil. This is a story about facing the hand life has dealt you and playing it the best you can, only to discover that maybe you ended up with a winner after all.
This is a story that will break your heart in a multitude of ways only to put it back together. This is a book filled with characters that will captivate you and stay in your thoughts for a long time after you finish reading. For me this was a book about a phenomenon I was barely aware of; a phenomenon I found as fascinating as I found it abhorrent. There is a quiet beauty in this book. The writing appears distant and yet gives such a wealth of emotion and beauty.
I don't quite have the words to describe just how much this book affected me; how strongly this story touched me. I have the emotion though; I love this book and this story.
I owe Tiffany Reisz a debt of gratitude for recommending yet another jewel of a book. Once again she has brought me to a story that has made a lasting impression on me. I will forever be grateful for the day I found a description of "The Siren" on NetGalley and decided I needed to read it. Who knew that one click on a "request" button would bring me such a wealth of literary, as well as other, delights.
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