Wednesday, April 30, 2014
THE VENETIAN BARGAIN by Marina Fiorato
Half-Venetian and married on the Grand Canal in Venice Marina Fiorato’s love for and ties to Italy are clear in her writing - pages glow with glorious evocations of that country’s architecture, religion, and culture. She captures the beauties and extreme dangers of 16th century Venice, all vividly unfolding with each page. Fiorato is a master at blending history with an imagined romance which she brings to big screen life with an accuracy of language and period details.
It is 1576 and the bubonic plague is rife in the Ottoman Empire. Bent on revenge for a defeat in battle the sultan of Constantinople decides to send the killer disease to Venice via a ship to be sailed by the father of Feyra, a beautiful and extremely intelligent young woman who has been serving as doctor to the sultan’s harem. However, she has every reason to fear for her life when the sultan is poisoned, and so she makes a dangerous choice - she stows away on the ship bearing deadly cargo.
Once the ship reaches Venice it is only a matter of days before the plague spreads throughout the city. The Venetian doge commissions the most gifted architect, Palladio, to build a monumental cathedral in the hopes of pleasing God and saving Venice. Realizing the importance of safeguarding Palladio until the cathedral is finished the doge hires the most accomplished plague doctor in the city, Annibale Cason, to look after the architect. The young medic has an agenda of his own in wanting to find a place to quarantine his patients, and discourage the quack doctors who only wish to take advantage of the sick and dying.
At the same time Feyra is left alone in a place that will label her an infidel. She hides, she runs, and at last finds refuge and work as a maid. It is not surprising that she will cross paths with the handsome Annibale Cason, yet it is initially an inauspicious meeting.
Fiorato unflinchingly describes the horrors of a city ravaged by plague and captivates readers with descriptions of a growing romance. The Venetian Bargain is historical fiction at its best, a well told tale enriched by accuracy and imagination.
- Gail Cooke