Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Book Review: A House Near Luccoli, by D.M. Denton
A House Near Luccoli by D.M. Denton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
D.M. Denton is an artist, and 'A House Near Luccoli' is more musical composition than historical novel. Which befits her subject - the last years of lesser known Baroque Italian composer Alessandro Stradella as experienced by the protagonist 35-year-old 'spinster' Donatella. Donatella is an unlikely foil for the flamboyant Stradella. She expects no interaction with the new tenant, as he moves into the boarding house where she lives. She considers him beyond reach - as we might a movie star on the screen - there, but not to be touched. But with the encouragement of her aging Grandmother, once an accomplished singer, Donatella begins to come under the maestro's spell.
A little about Denton's highly distinctive writing style: each sentence is a crafted thoughtscape - often elegant and poetic, rich with visual detail and emotional nuance. As a composer of music-through-prose, I'd judge her style more evocative of Debussy than any of the great Baroque masters. One of her favorite devices is to exploit paradox, as in 'she was happy and sad.' Within the infinite directions of a thoughtscape, these are meant to point out pathways. The reader does the walking. Here's an example - a sentence describing Donatella's church:
"Santa Maria Maddalena displayed a nativity in front of its main altar, still-life figures in satiny marble, the holy family ignoring those who arrived to bow and marvel, offer gifts already given, and point to unseen stars, donkey and sheep neither tethered nor free." (p.148)
It felt like a slow start to me, but before I was halfway through the book I found it hard to put down. And now that I'm finished I find myself going back to it. There is so much wealth here that I could read it again and find new paths and a fresh breeze.
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