(Additional reviews and other elite writings are available at the main page of the site.)
As the son and heir to the workshop of sixteenth-century Venice’s premier gondola maker, Luca Vianello has his career, his marriage, and his place in society mapped out for him. True, his stern father still grieves for Luca’s older brother who died in childhood. And Luca’s left-handedness—viewed in Renaissance Europe as sinister, even demonic—provokes blows from his father even as it causes him to lag behind his younger brother in developing his skills. But it is only when tragedy shoots Luca out of his family’s boat-building business altogether that he can envision the possibility of change.
Through luck, Luca lands a position in another Venetian boatyard, far less prosperous than the workshop to which he was born. He loads boxes, succeeds as an errand boy, and befriends an older, more experienced gondolier determined to introduce Luca to the charms of wine, women, and on-the-side deals. Before long, Luca has become the private boatman of Master Trevisan, painter to Venice’s elite. There Luca encounters both the beautiful Giuliana Zanchi (and Trevisan’s portrait of her) and the abandoned, broken-down gondola that will become his personal restoration project.
Laura Morelli is an art historian and the author of, among other nonfiction works, Made in Italy and Artisans of Venice. In her award-winning debut novel, The Gondola Maker (Laura Morelli, 2014), she draws on her extensive knowledge of the Venetian past and present to recreate a lost fictional world that will astonish you with its rich, varied, endlessly fascinating detail.