I absolutely love reading about Venice, past and present, fact and fiction. It's one of most alluring cities in the world and it is rich with possibilities when it comes to providing inspiration for authors.
Morelli's novel, The Gondola Maker, is set in 16th century Venice and tells the story of Luca Vianello, eldest son of a successful gondola maker. Luca's life is determined--he will inherit the squero, or shipyard, of his father, marry a girl whose family his parents wish to form an alliance with, and live out his life according to plan. However, tragedy strikes and Luca's response to it wrenches him out of the groove of his life, exiling him from his family and future, and enabling him to find his own way, his own talent, his own passion.
I enjoyed The Gondola Maker so much! Morelli's detailed descriptions of working-class life in 16th century Venice were entirely believable and helped to create a credible fiction world. Luca is wonderful character--complex emotions, realistic reactions, and above all interesting and someone I cared about. I loved the fact that he went on a personal journey, discovering who he was, what he wanted to become, and how he wanted to live, all without setting foot outside of the Venice, the only place he had ever lived.
Morelli did an excellent job of balancing her research with telling her story. Nothing bugs me more than when a historical fiction author is compelled to relay every piece of research he or she has uncovered, whether or not it is germane to the story. I like it when I can learn about a time and a place and a people and what they do during the lives without being pummeled by facts and figures that may or may not relate to the story.
The Gondola Maker is both rich in history and rich in story. I loved visiting Morelli's 16th century Venice, being immersed in the crafts of gondola and building, learning about the lives of the servants of the wealthy merchants and the artists they patronized, and hearing the story of a troubled young man who found out who he was and how to be true to himself and honor his family at the same time.
I am happy to be able to offer a giveaway of this wonderful book. You can enter by leaving a comment (please be sure that I have enough info to contact you). The giveaway is open internationally, and you can select either an e-book or print copy (again, please specify preference!). I will be accepting entries for one week (i.e., until Monday May 12 at 8 pm MT).
Here's the book trailer, which does a good job providing the bare outlines of the plot.