Nora Manin's life is in tatters. She is going through a painful divorce, at least for her. Her ex-husband remarried quickly, his mistress in fact, and was celebrating the eminent birth of his new baby, making life almost tortuous for Nora. She constantly wonders what she could have done better and can't understand the drastic change her life has taken. Her mother, an avowed feminist with her own sorrowful past concerning a man, is no help, and Nora finds herself utterly alone and adrift.
In the wake of her divorce, she decides to move to Venice, her birthplace and the home of a famous glassblowing ancestor, Corradino Manin. She tells no one of her plans, quietly packing up her life and belongings to travel to Venice with no place to live, no job, and only the money left from the sale of her house in London to live on. Nora explores the city and begins to feel at home and a kinship to her ancestor that she cannot explain. Shortly after her arrival, she signs up for a tourist day trip to Murano in the hopes of finding a job. A glass artist herself, she hopes she will be able to convince the owner she is worthy of a job. But she finds the owner unwilling to budge --- that is until he finds out what her last name is.
Telling the owner, Adelino, that she is indeed Corradino Manin's descendant, a famous glassblower in Murano's history who happened to work at the same factory, he takes her on and she starts the long process of becoming a Venice resident with many tangles and stacks of paperwork she didn't foresee. She truly wants to believe Corradino is helping her during this transition, which puts her at ease and helps her to move forward with her plans.
While preparing to stay in Venice and find a place to live, she meets Alessandro, a police detective. He assists her with the paperwork, re-christening her Leonora Manin, her given name, explaining it is more appropriate for her now that she will be a Venetian. He also helps her find a place to live and unknowingly begins helping her to love again.
Unfortunately, her contentment is short-lived. Taking advantage of her heritage, the owner of the glass factory decides to run an advertising campaign featuring Leonora and her famous ancestor. She has some doubts but agrees to it hoping it will help Adelino, who is taking a risk on her. Before the campaign rolls out, another artist takes offense and does all he can to derail Adelino’s efforts by telling a local reporter that Corradino was a traitor who sold the secrets of Venetian glass to France.
Switching between two time frames, THE GLASSBLOWER OF MURANO brings to life the past in the present. Marina Fiorato weaves a beautiful story of redemption and love, showing us what the human spirit is capable of while enticing readers with an intriguing tale of mystery and murder. However, one does wish there was more about the love story between Leonora and Alessandro. It's a very lovely relationship, but there is not quite enough of it; the story would be far richer with more between the two. The historical flashbacks are interesting but few and far between. The scenes add nice background and provide readers with another perspective of the city, but don’t feel connected to the story until the very end and then only tangentially.
The city of Venice, a place caught between the past and the present, is an intriguing setting for this tale, and one that will leave the reader longing for more about the characters and the city itself.
Reviewed by Amy Gwiazdowski on January 22, 2011
The Glassblower of Murano