Don’t you just love it when you come across a book that you want to read again and again? This happened to me with Laura Morelli’s The Gondola Maker. As soon as I read the ending, I went back and reread the beginning and started over.
I came across this book through one of those ubiquitous recommendations on Amazon. It seemed a good recommendation, so I added it to my TBR wish list. A couple of weeks later, I went to Laura Morelli’s website. I like to find out a bit about the authors whose books I choose to read. She’s an art historian and an expert on Italy. I love all things Italian, so I subscribed to her newsletter.
Shortly before Christmas, she sent an offer of receiving a signed paperback copy of The Gondola Maker for only the cost of postage. “Absolutely!” I said. “Sign me up!”
When I read a novel, if I really, really, love it, I slow down in my reading, turning each word over in my mind’s eye, delighting in turns of phrase and prose, sometimes rereading sections before moving forward. I read The Gondola Maker slowly, stretching out every stroke of the oar, floating through the Venetian waters in my mind.
The sights, the smells, the senses that Laura Morelli evokes in her book bring the world of Venice in the 1500s to life. The art and craft of the gondola is turned into a living thing in the author’s hands, taught and passed down from one generation after another. Watch the TedEd video Laura made about gondolas and their history.
Yet, what if someone decided to take a different path than the one ordained through his family history?
This is the story of Luca Vianello, a young man witnessing the burning of a beautifully handmade gondola in the opening scenes of the book. When tragedy strikes Luca’s family, he runs. He runs as far away from his family as he can get, changing his name and identity. He meets a woman so far out of his reach, he’s a fool to even imagine he might ever be able to have a future with her. He has a stroke of luck that brings him into touch with his past and allows him to engage in his passion and talent in boat making. He finds out that we all make mistakes, but we don’t have to let our mistakes ruin us.
The story travels a circular route through the canals of Venice, somehow ending where it began. It has just the right amount of tension to pull you through the waters and the art of the era without making you feel rushed.
I encourage you to add this book to your collection. Then pull up a comfortable chair with soft cushions, and lean back in your own personal felze to enjoy the ride with The Gondola Maker.
About Laura Morelli
Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University, where she was a Bass Writing Fellow and Mellon Doctoral Fellow. She authored a column for National Geographic Traveler called “The Genuine Article” and contributes pieces about authentic travel to national magazines and newspapers. Laura has been featured on CNN Radio, Travel Today with Peter Greenberg, The Frommers Travel Show, and in USA TODAY, Departures, House & Garden Magazine, Traditional Home, the Denver Post, Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, and other media. Recently her art history lesson, “What’s the difference between art and craft?” was produced and distributed by TED-Ed.
Laura has taught college-level art history at Trinity College in Rome, as well as at Northeastern University, Merrimack College, St. Joseph College, and the College of Coastal Georgia. Laura has lived in five countries, including four years in Italy and four years in France.
Laura Morelli is the author of the guidebook series that includes Made in Italy, Made in France, andMade in the Southwest, all published by Rizzoli / Universe. The Gondola Maker, a historical coming-of-age story about the heir to a gondola boatyard in 16th-century Venice, is her first work of fiction.
If you liked this, you might enjoy reading my reviews of Laura Morelli’s Authentic Arts books.