Top critical review
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Pleasant enough but...
on 24 April 2009
Apologies to all the fans of this book, but after the rave reviews I found it somewhat lacking. I'm not going to repeat the plot as that's already been done, but this felt very slight and oddly both operatically overblown and yet at the same time stripped of true emotion.
The structure of past and present linked through family ancestry is one which every other novel around seems to emulate. While the narrative is mainly in the third person there are irritating interjections on nearly every page where suddenly the protagonist says a few words (and I do mean a few) for her/himself, but they tend to repeat what we have already been told.
I found the modern story more engaging that the past one (and I'm usually the other way around with novels). Emotions were very clumsily delineated, in my view: people felt literally dizzy with surprise, were physically sick with nerves, literally jumped in the air for joy, were constantly shaken, breathless, overthrown... all very exhausting to read. When the protagonist is asked to be the model of an advertising campaign for Venetian glass, she thinks the idea is 'obscene' - why? Yet another exmple of soap-opera-style emotion that seems way out of kilter with what was actually called for.
The central relationship between Leonora and the rather lovely Alessandro was very pale: there's no real sense of any relationship between them. And the ending was just too fairy-tale for words.
I'm perhaps sounding more critically negative than is appropriate: this isn't a bad novel, it's a pleasant enough read, it would be perfect for a sleepy holiday in the sun, and it slips down very easily on a commute. It's just very slight and a little too bland for me. Definitely 3 stars.