Hello my fellow bookworms, today I am bringing you my thoughts on the historical-fiction, The Lost Diary of Venice by Margaux DeRoux, which was her debut novel published in 2020. As soon as I learnt it was a dual-narrative love story and mystery that spans late Renaissance Venice and present-day Connecticut, how could I not grab a copy?!
The book opens by introducing us to the introverted book restorer, Rose, who has shut out the world and found solace in her work, after her beloved father’s death. Then one rainy Connecticut afternoon, in steps the handsome conflicted artist, William Lomazzo into her dusty bookstore, bringing with him a remarkably intact sixteenth-century treatise on art. Rose discovers the pages are a palimpsest, and as she works to clean up and reveal the hidden text below, her own life begins to open up too. 📜
I just loved getting to know Rose and all the little incidental details of her life: cycling to work, collecting a coffee, opening up the shop, the shop cat, the crammed bookshelves, her modern workroom at the back, and her trips out to the university libraries for research. Yep, I just wanted this to be my life! Add to this a mysterious text and a reawakening of her feelings, then this may have been my favourite thread of the narrative, which is unusual for me as I usually find the past the biggest draw.
Talking of which, the second narrative takes place five centuries earlier, where we are introduced to the respected Renaissance portrait artist, Giovanni Lomazzo, who is grappling with the decline in his vision, as well as the death of his wife and young son, all amidst the chaos of an encroaching Ottoman fleet heading for Venice. When he is commissioned to paint the enchanting courtesan of Venice’s most respected military commanders, which inspires him to document his life, love and art before he is plunged into a completely dark, colourless world. 🎨
To be fair to Giovanni I did enjoy getting to know him too, along with the beautiful courtesan Chiara, seeing how he worked, went to lavish balls and carnivals, coped with his sight loss, and reacted to the prejudice and fears of his time towards people seen as ‘different’. I had never read anything set in this place or time before, and so I learnt a fair bit, particularly about Venice’s war with the Ottoman Empire. But at the end of each chapter, I must admit I did look forward to getting back to Rose and her story!
This is no comment on DeRoux’s writing though, both narratives I thought were very well written, with lovely minutiae details that made me very happy. My preference for Rose’s narrative is completely down to personal taste more than anything else. However what both narratives do deliver equally well is a heartbreakingly vivid portrait of entrancing, unrelenting, and impossible love, across time and vastly different worlds. All of which is fatefully brought together by one artistic legacy, lay hidden in the pages of an old book. 💔
So overall, I thought The Lost Diary of Venice was a richly detailed page-turner, with a lovely cast of characters, set in beautiful locations, that I enjoyed escaping into. I probably would have raced through this even quicker if hadn’t been for the confusing formatting of my ARC, but even that couldn’t put much of a dampening on what was a very… Good read. ⭐⭐
I look forward to seeing more by this author.
Have you read this? Or have you read anything else set in this time period? Please let me know in the comments below!