Great White Snark: Overdue book review(s).

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Overdue book review(s).

I've read a couple of books lately and wanted to share my thoughts with you. 
The first one I read was The Blind Contessa's New Machine. It's an elaboration of historical fact turned into beautifully written historical fiction. The gist of the story is this: the young Contessa, Carolina, is engaged to be married to the popular, handsome, and wealthy Pietro. She knows she is going blind, but when she voices her concerns to her family, they dismiss her. The only one who believes Carolina is her longtime friend, the eccentric, inventive Turri, who has been her intellectual companion since childhood. Turri, being older, has already been married for years but continues his friendship with Carolina. Carolina marries Pietro and does indeed go blind. She continues to secretly meet with Turri despite the cultural taboo of two married people being friends. He goes on to invent the earliest version of the typewriter so they can continue to correspond despite her blindness.

The book is based on fact, as quoted by the author: "Pellegrino Turri did invent the world's first typewriter for Carolina Fantoni in 1808. (In fact, many early typewriters were conceived of as writing aids for the blind). The two of them did carry on a correspondence while married to other people." It's an interesting basis for a story, but it's Wallace's fanciful and intricate prose that makes this a story worth reading. The way she weaves words together and tells the story of an ever-darkening world (until the reader, along with Carolina, is plunged into complete darkness) is beautiful and unforgettable. If I ever had to teach a class on prose, I'd definitely put this on the reading list. 

Do I recommend it? Only if you're into more "artsy" literature, as it's not a typical narrative. There are no chapters, and very little dialogue. Also, if you dislike historical novels then forget it. But overall, yes, it's a really lovely book and I couldn't put it down once I started (finished it in a night). 

My only gripe was with the ending. The entire thing felt extremely anticlimactic. There's a beautiful build-up, and then the climax and falling action happens in about 3 pages. I wish there'd been more. 
But I guess it's better to be left wanting more than wishing there'd been less.

The next book I want to review is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, but I have SO many thoughts on it that I think I'll do a separate post. Otherwise this'll just go on entirely too long. :)

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