I have always enjoyed a good historical novel, ever since those Anya Seton's and Jean Plaidy's used to fly around the Form 3C classroom and I still have some of my contributions to the central lending pot. We'd all buy different ones and then they'd start the circuit, nothing nicer than opening your desk lid to drag out the French vocab and find a well-thumbed Jean Plaidy waiting for you.
However in recent years I think I might have been suffering from Headless Woman Fatigue Syndrome.
So many historical novels now sporting the headless heaving bosom, even dear old Jean's gone headless, and whilst I appreciate the significance in that many of the women did indeed end up sans capita (sorry is that a bit of a mongrel invention, a French-Latin concoction) it nevertheless seemed to be sending me a subliminal message along the lines of 'read one I've read them all,' which of course is rubbish.
But place them together like this and what a stunningly rich and alluring design feature they make and the marketing thought doubtless exactly that, read one and love it and you'll safely pick up and read every other Headless Woman book, yes even War & Peace.
So I felt I needed to find a way back in to join the party again and have The Lady and the The Poet by Maeve Haran lined up but plumped for The Glassblower of Murano by Marina Fiorato published by Beautiful Books to set the head ball rolling.
Firstly I've never been to Venice so I bring to this book nothing beyond the assurance from everyone else that it is a magical place and really we should go one day and preferably on this.
Leonora Manin, a direct descendant of the great 17th century Venetian glass artist Corradino Manin heads to Venice to follow in Corradino's footsteps and ply her trade as a glassblower on the Isle of Murano. There is of course treachery afoot and the past is inevitably going to reveal its darkest secrets as Leonora becomes the advertising gift that the company have been looking for. If a Manin can't turn around the ailing fortunes of the business then no one can.
Interestingly given the current financial nightmare dominating the news right now,the book more than dips a toe, albeit unwittingly, in the real world
Now please don't think I'm being derogatory or judgemental when I say this isn't high end literary fiction, more one of those books you'd read on holiday or when some relief from the rigours of serious reading call. After a bout of ultra-serious reading of late The Glassblower of Murano was the perfect antidote. The plot weaves back and forth from 17th century Venice to the present day as old feuds surface and Leonora's life starts to become deeply embroiled in that of her elusive ancestor's. Having perfected the art of mirror-making it was obvious Corradino might be head-hunted (sorry) by the very person who needed a big batch order fulfilled and the unravelling of quite how Corradino becomes Versailles mirror-maker extraordinaire to Louis XIV of France kept me involved to the final page.
Don't worry, I've given nothing away, this much is on the back cover blurb.
Twists and turns abound and I was also intrigued by Marina Fiorato's technical detail here. Making a flawless mirror took a lot of puff and one heck of a great big parison which you've then got to put on your pontello, carefully slice your bubble and watch what happens. Plenty can go wrong at the next stage too which is the mercury dip and of course no COSHH regulations in 1681.
It was all fascinating enough to make me want to have a go...could I do it in the Aga top oven?
So if you fancy a trip to Venice from your armchair with a headless woman for company it's easy, names in comments because there are three prize draw copies of The Glassblower of Murano ready and waiting for Beautiful Books to send to the lucky winners, and in the meantime I'd love some good recommends from the Headless Woman genre, any suggestions?