Sunday, February 17, 2013

What I Read This Weekend

What I Read This Weekend  . . .

Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill -- Young Adult Historical Fiction

This novel in verse tells the story of Maria Barovier, the daughter of Angelo Barovier, the inventor of  cristallo (crystal). For nearly two-hundred years, since 1291, glass has been made on the island of Murano in Venice, Italy. Maria's father trained her to work in the fornica, the hot furnace where glass is made. She loves everything about the art of glass making and would love to take over the family business some day, but Maria's family has a different fate in mind for her. Maria was born the day her Papa invented cristallo and he felt she was so lucky she should marry a nobleman. Traditionally, it should be the eldest daughter who marries into nobility not the youngest. Maria doesn't understand the implications of the reversal of tradition at first, but then her Papa dies, and when Maria's Mama finally takes an interest in Maria and Maria's whole world changes. Now she is locked up in her room and not allowed to visit the furnace, sketch or do anything that isn't befitting the future wife of a nobleman. Even worse, her brothers and uncle introduce her to a string of undesirable suitors. Maria's older sister Giovanna, has changed too. She's no longer a kind and loving confidante. In order to restore the family fortune and reputation, Maria's family hires a new, young glassmaker. At first Maria finds the orphaned young man rude and crude but she soon discovers he shares her passion for glass as an art and Maria's heart is torn in two. She can not go against her father's wishes, even though Vanna is the one who deserves to marry a nobleman not Maria. With so much at stake, could she defy her family and risk ruining the family name and business? This is a new story that I haven't heard, though my parents have been to Murano! I liked Maria because she's passionate about glass and she loves her family. Though she's a rebel at heart and sometimes a real pain, she values tradition. Being (half) Italian, I can empathize with her dilemma. Maria's mother comes across as unfeeling and other times she's sympathetic. I liked that she is not a stereotypical wicked mother, but someone who is in a tight spot and understands her daughter's unhappiness but there's nothing she can do about it. The romance is sweet though the solution to the problem is very highly unlikely! The plot kept me reading and wondering what would happen. The verse is beautiful. It's blank verse, like most novels in verse, and I'm not sure why the author chose to tell her story that way. The descriptions of Venice and Murano are amazing even though they are described in only a few words. I've been to Venice but not Murano. There's a handy glossary in the back of the book that explains glassblowing terms, Italian laws, government, architecture and other unfamiliar things that appear in the novel.

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