Publisher: St. Martins Griffin, 2009
The Glassblower of Murano is a lovely historical fiction that tells two stories with great similarities. Set in Murano, a suburb of Venice, it intersperses the stories of a gifted glassblower, Corradino, in the seventeenth century with modern-day Leonora, an apprentice glassblower. Corradino is Leonora’s ancestor. She appears to have been gifted with his talent.
Leonora’s story isn’t as interesting as Corradino’s. She is a divorced woman who fled England to start a new life in Italy. When she gets a job at a Murano glassblowing factory she personally comes up against some controversy because of rumors that her ancestor gave the Murano glassblowing secrets to the French. (After all these years, there’s still bad feelings?) These rumors cause a co-worker at the glassblowing factory to sabotage Leonora’s work, so she attempts to find out the truth about Corrodino.
The high quality of the products produced by the glassblowing industry in the seventeenth century was exclusive to Italy and specifically Venice. It was fanatically guarded with governmental laws, etc. The workers were virtual slaves on the island of Murano. Spies from France tried to recruit Corrodino to travel to France to create special glass mirrors for King Louis XIV. The spies threatened him with death of both himself and a secret daughter. The question is: Did he do it or was there a way out?
As I said, I liked the old story of Corrodino best. It was much more dramatic and believable. There was a nice little romance for Leonora, but the rest of the modern story didn’t stack up for me. Overall, it was an okay read.
This was a book club selection and most members in the group liked it. As is our wont, we spent quite a bit of time on the social issues that came up in both stories. In particular, we talked most about the various aspects and evils of slavery – today and in the past.
I’ll recommend The Glassblower of Murano to readers who really like historical fiction as well as book clubs that love to discuss the issues raised in a story.