Saturday, March 27, 2010

Vivaldi's Virgins by Barbara Quick

Vivaldi's Virgins: A NovelI am not a huge fan of music. Since I discovered audio books, I have replaced the radio stations in my car with more reading. However, I do enjoy classical music. This fondness was instilled in me by my high school Language Arts teacher. She strongly believed in the connection between classical music and classic literature.  Ever since then I have shared her belief that these two arts go hand in hand. And Vivaldi’s Virgins was truly my guilty pleasure as it combined both.

The book is written in a form of a memoir of Anna Maria dal Violin, a girl raised from infancy in Ospedale della Pieta, a home for elite female musicians of the early 18th century Venice. It was Venice where the legendary Antonio Vivaldi reigned supreme. Vivaldi was also the maestro of Ospedale instructing and teaching young girls, future musicians the beautiful art of music. Anna Maria was one of these girls and she was also one of Vivaldi’s favorites. Her amazing talent for playing violin was only overshadowed by her quest and longing for finding out who she truly was. She had been left at the doors of Ospedale as a motherless infant and was raised by the nuns. The whole novel weaves around Anna trying desperately to find out who her mother is, what her familial heritage is. She risks her career and her love for music only to discover what is most important to her.

Photo with permission from Barbara. Here's what she said about it:
I'm also attaching a photo I took (lying on my back in the Sala della Musica in Venice, looking up at a fresco by Jacopo Guarana, which was commissioned by girls of the coro contemporaneous with Anna Maria--though from another of the Ospedale--who also modeled for the painting...).

I truly adored this book. The world of splendid Venice and the world of beautiful, divine music were captivating. Barbara Quick must love classical music just as much as she loves writing because she could not have channeled the notes of Vivaldi’s compositions via the book otherwise. As with every great historical novel, this one compelled me to find out all I could about Vivaldi and his Virgins. And I must say that Ms. Quick also happens to be quite accurate in her portrayal of Venice’s history. That was yet another plus added to my growing list of pluses as I kept reading Vivaldi’s Virgins.

But the part of this book I appreciated the most was the portrayal of Anne. She was just a small, 9-year-old girl when the story started but from the very first pages I could feel the wonder at her two passions. She was equally burned by the need to find her mother, and consequently her own identity, and by the love she had for playing violin. Her talent and her adoration for music turned into a love affair (who says that a love affair has to be between two people) that lasted Anna’s whole life and for which much was sacrificed.  I really enjoyed reading about another person’s great devotion and passion towards what she loved and it made me feel a little guilty about my sometimes lukewarm attitude towards my own interests. I made up for it though, at least in one small part by re-discovering the music of Vivaldi to which I listened all the while reading the book.

  Another book by Barbara Quick will soon be released. A Golden Web is coming on April 6th from HarperCollins.
A Golden Web