Monday, August 08, 2005

three cheers for letters

I just finished The Venetian Affair, and i have to say a loud huzzah! for the adept writing of Andrea Di Robilant. Brilliant writing pieces together the letters, and his work in understanding their lives as well as their voices is commendable. The book ought to be required reading of any aspiring historian, as it relies on primary documents, is well-research, well-cited, and anything but dry. The voices of the clandestine lovers comes through amid the tapestry of mid-eighteenth century venice, spans the decline of the great city and is practically a primer on social and political life in England and on the Continent during the Seven Years' War. Finally, as the letters cease, Andrea Di Robilant does not leave the story there, but researches out the end of their lives, seeing her return to Italy, his rise in politics in Venice, her growing literary career, and ending ultimately with a quote from her penultimate letter.

Brilliantly done, it reads well. Not only does Di Robilant care about this long-ago couple and their passions, positions and persecution, the reader is impervious to help but care about them as well. As a work of history, Di Robilant suceeds masterfully; as a first work at all, it soars.

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