By suggestion of Dottie Reed, one of my biggest mentors, I have started reading the historical fiction of Barbara Quick, specifically, Vivaldi’s Virgins. Taking place in 18th century Venice, the novel provides wonderful insight into the society of Venezia and the impact that Maestro Antonio Vivaldi had on the cultural, financial, and psychological aspects of Venetian life.
- The cover of Barbara Quick’s novel, Vivaldi’s Virgins
The story begins with a letter written by the novel’s narrator, Anna Maria dal Violin, to her mother of unknown location. It is soon discovered that Anna Maria does not even know if her mother is alive or deceased. However, the story of her abandonment at the Pietà and how she soon became to be known by the Maestro, himself, as one of the greatest violinists of her time, unfolds with delicately chosen and ornately phrased words, strung into beautifully written sentences.
I have chosen to copy the excerpt from the novel that is written on the back cover. In no way am I trying to take credit for Ms. Quick’s work, so please understand that this is not an infrigement of the law.
I can remember the day when Sister Laura brought me before him. Don Antonio sat in the sacristy, unwigged, his hair as red as the branding irons used in older days to mark the infants when they were brought here – the same brand that marks me on my foot, a small, ornate letter P to designate a foundling enrolled at the Pietà.
“What’s this?” Don Antonio asked. Looking up from the papers and quills that lay in disorder on his writing desk, he protested that he was hired to teach the advanced students, not the piccolo.
Sister Laura pushed me forward, even though, with all my heart, I longed to turn away and run. The color of his hair frightened me – it put me in mind of the flames of Hell. And the impatience in his voice bespoke a man who had no love of children.
But Sister Laura urged him to hear me play.
When I was done, he took the instrument from me and examined my hands, turning them over in his. He tipped my face up so that he could peer into my eyes, and it was then that I could see the happiness my playing had given him. He asked me my name.
“They call me Anna Maria dal Violin,” I told him.