Venice in February: The Four Seasons

Huge, fat flakes of snow started falling about an hour ago, a stark contrast to the spring-like weather we’ve enjoyed for the past few days. I had planned a morning of errands – there are prescriptions waiting for me at the pharmacy, a list of items that need to be purchased before we fly out to Dallas tomorrow to visit our son and his family, and a pair of slacks that need to be returned.

But in light of the weather, I think I’ll forgo all of it for a while, and settle in to read a bit longer. Perhaps I’ll let my computer do some shopping for me (luckily, Walgreen’s also offers online discounts so I can save money while I save myself from braving the winter weather.)

I’ve just finished The Four Seasons, by Laurel Corona, another selection for the Venice in February challenge, and by far my favorite of the books I’ve chosen. This is a historical novel, set in the early 18th century, and it imagines the lives of two sisters who were abandoned as infants on the steps of a foundling hospital which also houses a world famous musical academy. Chiaretta is a high-spirited soprano who eventually marries into Venetian society, while Maddalena is an introspective violinist who becomes the quiet muse of composer Antonio Vivaldi.

The author has brought Venice to life in this novel, especially the interesting world of the pieta (the orphanage/music school) and the life of those in the higher echelons of society. Women could follow only two paths in those times – the life of the nunnery, or marriage. For single women in the pieta’s, life was sheltered and secluded, while for married women, it was expected that they would be seen out and about with their cavaliere serventi, platonic male friends and confidantes, who performed a variety of “personal services” for the society matrons. Meanwhile, their husbands were in the company of courtesans,  and were free to spend as much time with them as they liked. Chiaretta marries a man she dearly loves, but learns to accept this way of life and build a successful marriage in spite of it. Maddalena, who deeply loves Vivaldi, the quixotic priest/composer who teaches her to play the violin, knows their relationship is doomed, yet she continues to strive toward mastering her art and becoming a teacher herself, helping other young girls shape their own destinies as musicians.

I enjoyed seeing the ways both sisters were able to shape their fate, even within the confines of this society and it’s rules and regulations. The Four Seasons was an interesting, engaging read, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys historical novels.

Now I have the opportunity to survey my teetering to-be-read pile and decide what to read next! A perfect way to spend a snowy morning…

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2 thoughts on “Venice in February: The Four Seasons

  1. I do appreciate bad weather when it gives us an excuse to read longer! Today it is rainy and windy and altogether unpleasant, and I am delighted to look ahead to a quiet afternoon with a book. The Four Seasons sounds charming. I rarely read historical novels, but then I so often enjoy them when I do.

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