Wednesday, May 28, 2014

iRead Book Tour: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

Title: The Gondola Maker
Author: Laura Morelli
Publisher: Laura Morelli
Publication Date:
ISBN: 9780989367103
Number of Pages: 306
How I Got It: iRead Book Tours
Format: Paperback
In 16th-century Venice, the heir to a family boatyard rejects his destiny but is drawn to restore an old gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride.

Venice, 1581
Luca Vianello is the heir to the city's most esteemed gondola-making family. But when an accidental tragedy strikes the boatyard, Luca believes his true calling lies elsewhere. Readers will appreciate the authentic details of gondola craftsmanship along with a captivating tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world's most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.

My Review:
This novel will transport readers to Renaissance Venice with canals and a bustling city life. A bildungsroman fraught with class tensions, THE GONDOLA MAKER is a story of young love. Luca Vianello loves Giuliana Zanchi the moment he sets eyes on her. But as gondolier for local artist Master Trevisan, Luca is not of noble birth and therefore not an acceptable match for Giuliana. However, Giuliana needs privacy for a few errands and Luca is more than happy to be her personal servant. 

Q&A with Laura Morelli:
Hello Laura,
I thoroughly enjoyed reading THE GONDOLA MAKER and am excited to promote it on my blog at the end of the month. This will be my first time participating in a book tour. Exciting! I'd like to ask you a few questions and I will feature them with my review.

1. How did you compile your research of gondola making? 
I’m sure my method was “novel” (so to speak) in that the foundational research that went into The Gondola Maker was actually conducted for another book. I didn’t plan it that way! While I was writing Made in Italy, I traveled all over Italy, from the Alps to the islands, talking with contemporary artisans who still practice centuries-old traditions like Murano glass, Florentine leather, Sicilian ceramics, Roman gold smithing, and of course, Venetian gondolas. Over and over, the people I interviewed emphasized how important it was to pass the torch of tradition to the next generation. I began to wonder what would happen—especially centuries ago—if the successor were not able… or willing. The character of the gondola maker and his son began to take shape in my head.

As I began to work on The Gondola Maker, it was an opportunity to take a deeper dive into the primary historical sources about the history of the gondola, the world of the guilds or arti, and Venetian boatmen in Renaissance Venice. Historically, Venetians were well aware of their position in the world and so there are a lot of historical sources from which to draw, although private boatmen and other domestic servants only appear incidentally in the historical record, sometimes in reference to a crime or other infraction.

2. Was the virginity of some young Venetian women of high birth bartered in the way you describe Giuliana’s?
This part of the plot is purely fictional as far as I know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if someday I came across a reference to it in the historical record. One of the fascinating things about Venetian history in this period is how easily people managed to entangle themselves in complex webs of personal and professional intrigues. There are stories everywhere about private dealings and underground rings of various sorts, involving everyone from prostitutes and boatmen to merchants and politicians. You have to remember how strictly the social hierarchy was drawn in the Venetian Republic; everyone had his or her place. Understandably, people tried to earn money, power, and privilege in ways that sometimes—very easily—took them outside the boundaries of the hierarchy.   

3. Is Master Trevisan based on a particular artist, a compilation of artists, or entirely your own creation?
Good question! My training as an art historian informed most aspects of Trevisan’s character, although he is not based on one artist in particular. I drew on art historical sources for well-known 16th-century Venetian painters like Tintoretto and Veronese, for whom we know quite a lot about their patrons, commissions, assistants, and workshop practices. I enjoyed writing Trevisan’s character and would like to spend more time with him.  

4. Would you say most modern gondoliers favor Alvise or Luca?
If you believe the historical record, Alvise is a stereotypical boatman of the Renaissance, and Luca would have been the exception. Historical documents of this period—including filings of legal and criminal proceedings, law books, guild statutes, and incidental mentions—include fascinating details about Venetian boatmen and their activities. If you believe these sources, they were notorious for cursing, gambling, carousing, and aiding in underground trade. I would say that the gondoliers of today are significantly fewer in number and infinitely more tame than their 16th-century predecessors!

5. What are some of your current writing projects?
I am working on revised editions of my books, Made in Italy and Made in France, and am also writing a series of small guides that lead travelers to discover authentic arts in specific cities and regions of Europe. Venice will be the first!

Sixteenth-century Venice is the star of Laura Morelli's well-crafted historical novel about the heir to the city's most renowned gondola builder.
--Publishers Weekly Starred Review

The heir to a gondola empire rejects his birthright in this fascinating glimpse into Renaissance Venice.
--Kirkus Indie Book of the Month

I'm a big fan of Venice, so I appreciate Laura Morelli's special knowledge of the city, the period, and the process of gondola-making. An especially compelling story.
--Frances Mayes, author, Under the Tuscan Sun 

Laura Morelli has done her research, or perhaps she was an Italian carpenter in another life. One can literally smell and feel the grain of finely turned wood in her hands.
--Pamela Sheldon Johns, author, Italian Food Artisans

Beautiful immersion into Renaissance Venice.
--Susan Van Allen, author, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go

Historical fiction at its best.
--Midwest Book Review



About Laura Morelli:
Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and a Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She has taught art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at several American universities. Laura authors a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic arts and travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, and other media. She is also the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, and Made in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker is her first work of fiction.


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