Paperback published March 3, 2014
Genre: historical fiction
First paragraph: I chew my lower lip while I wait to see my father's gondola catch fire.
Page 56: I have done my best to stay hidden during daylight hours, observing, waiting - for what, I cannot say.A young boy, Luca, has accidentally caused the burning of his family's boat making factory after a fight with his father. He runs off to stay with an old friend, an oar maker, but soon disappears to become a gondolier for a well known artist, ferrying the artist to his various appointments and running errands by boat.
The novel is more than a coming-of-age story set among boat makers and gondoliers in 16th century Venice. It tells how Luca grows up to learn to handle responsibility, gets to know a world outside that of his small town, and falls in love. He discovers an old boat produced by his family in years past and sets out to restore and repair it, improving his boat making skills and working on making his own oars. How he handles misfortune, disappointment, even imprisonment, and how he redeems himself is the crux of the novel.
The setting is detailed and the atmosphere and feel of Venice is well done. We are immersed in the surroundings and lives of Venice's gondoliers and how they handle their boats, the techniques of boat makers and their exacting craft, and the skill needed to make boats of the highest quality boats.
I was captivated by the story and easily slipped into the Venice of the 16th century. The author has artfully woven Luca's story into the historical fabric of the times. I learned a lot about gondolas of the time, the laws of the city regarding boat making, and much more. My objective rating for this fascinating historical novel: 5/5.
Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, and has taught college-level art history in the US and Europe. Laura is the author of Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest (Rizzoli). The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction. Visit her at Laura Morelli Facebook Twitter
For a list of other reviews of the book, visit iRead Book Tours
I received a complimentary review copy of the book for this tour.
Here is a Q and A that will tell us more about Laura and her writing.
The foundational research that went into The Gondola Maker was actually conducted for another book. I didn’t plan it that way! While I was writing Made in Italy, I traveled all over Italy, from the Alps to the islands, talking with contemporary artisans who still practice centuries-old traditions like Murano glass, Florentine leather, Sicilian ceramics, Roman gold smithing, and of course, Venetian gondolas. Over and over, the people I interviewed emphasized how important it was to pass the torch of tradition to the next generation. I began to wonder what would happen—especially centuries ago—if the successor were not able… or willing. The character of the gondola maker and his son began to take shape in my head.
4. What other books have you written?
5. What are you currently writing?
I am working on revised editions of my books, Made in Italy and Made in France, and am also writing a series of small guides that lead travelers to discover authentic arts in specific cities and regions of Europe. Venice will be the first!
SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2014 DA VINCI EYE PRIZE