If ever a beautiful, alluring historical novel has been written, The Violinist of Venice, debut novel from author Alyssa Palombo, is definitely it. Absolutely captivating, this stunning novel will capture your heart with the beautiful descriptions of Venice, the characters that practically pull you right into the story, and the heart wrenching romance that you can’t help but be hopeful for, despite the fact that their love is forbidden.
“And if I have taught you nothing else, remember this: we will never, ever find enough beauty in this world to satisfy ourselves. And so we must make our own, and never stop making it.”
Adriana d’Amato has a passion for music – and for playing the violin. She had been given lessons during her childhood, but when she became a teenager and her mother died, her father insisted that the lessons stopped, and would not allow her to play. Desperate to pick up the violin once more, Adriana seeks out one of the best violinists and composers in Venice – Antonio Vivaldi. While sneaking to Vivaldi’s house in the middle of the night to receive her lessons, the two inevitably realize their true feelings for each other – they have fallen in love. Their love is the kind of all-consuming, powerful love that everyone hopes for in their lives – however, they cannot ever truly be together. While Adriana’s wealthy father is busy trying to find a suitable husband for Adriana, Vivaldi is a priest…which means they can never really be together. Forced to find a husband from a wealthy family, Adriana fights and hopes that their forbidden romance might still work out. When their passion leads to circumstances that force them to make a decision about their relationship, hearts are broken, lives are shattered, and both Adriana and Vivaldi are forced to come to terms with what is happening between them.
While this isn’t a young adult novel, it starts off when Adriana is eighteen, and it branches out from there, covering the events and happenings of her life for over thirty years.
This is one of the most beautiful novels that I have ever gotten the chance to read. The Violinist of Venice is written in a very lyrical way that practically emanates a burning passion – not only the romantic variety, but for music, as well. The relationship that Adriana has with her violin is amazing, and her desire to pursue her dreams to not only play music, but compose it as well, is inspiring. Keep in mind that this is during a time when women are not looked upon as having serious talent with musical instruments – for example, women who are opera singers have to sign contracts forbidding them from signing in public again once they are married (this situation actually occurs later in the novel). So to see Adriana risk it all to keep doing what she loves is of great bravery and dedication.
The plot is the perfect balance between being slow and somewhat fast-paced…skipping around a few years here and there as Adriana’s life continues. The character development is exceptional, and it was quite wonderful watching her develop from a young woman into an adult, all the while dealing with the choices she made back when she was a young woman, and carving a new path for herself based on the situations that she has been presented with.
If you’re a fan of music, romance, and historical novels, this one is a must read. I devoured this book in two days, and I loved every page. This might be Alyssa Palombo’s debut novel, but it has been written with the amazing talent of a dedicated author who has passion of her I cannot wait to read more of her books!
Note: I received an ARC copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About Alyssa Palombo
ALYSSA PALOMBO has published short historical fiction pieces in Black Lantern, Novelletum, and The Great Lakes Review. She is a recent a graduate of Canisius College with degrees in English and creative writing, respectively, as well as a trained classical musician. The Violinist of Venice is her first novel. She lives in Tonawanda, New York.
♥ Interview with Alyssa Palombo ♥
Q. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up? What are your hobbies when you aren’t writing?
A. I grew up in Tonawanda, New York, which is a suburb of Buffalo. I went to Canisius College in Buffalo and double majored in English and creative writing with a minor in music (I absolutely LOVED my time at Canisius!)
When I’m not writing I do a lot of reading (obviously!) and I love spending a rainy afternoon browsing through a bookstore. I love listening to music and going to shows – I’ve actually seen my three favorite bands live this year: Nightwish, Kamelot, and Delain. I’m a classically trained singer and have sung in choirs and in opera performances and recitals here and there. I love hanging out with my friends, shopping or going to dinner or just hanging out and watching TV. I spend a lot of time with my family and of course with my dog J He’s an adorable and very ferocious silky terrier named Fenway.
Q. What inspired you to become a writer?
A. I’ve always wanted to be a writer; I can’t really remember making a conscious decision to become one. I’ve loved to read ever since I learned how, and started making up stories and writing them down at a really young age. Writing is honestly my favorite thing in the world to do – I just love getting lost in the story and the characters and their dialogue and conflicts and adventures – so I’ve worked at it for a long time because it’s fun for me. It’s been my dream to have a novel published as long as I can remember, and sometimes I still can’t really believe it’s happening!
Q. Music is a large part of your novel. Has music always been a big part of your life?
A. Yes, definitely. I got a really good musical education from my parents growing up, and heard everything from Stevie Ray Vaughn to B.B. King to Metallica to Led Zeppelin to Fleetwood Mac to Sarah McLachlan. I’ve always loved musical theatre as well. When I was a teenager I got into heavy metal (prompted by my dad buying me Black Sabbath’s Paranoid when I was 15), and it’s still my favorite genre to this day. I’ve played piano and a little violin (the latter as research for The Violinist of Venice), but as I mentioned above I’m a singer first and foremost. I got into classical voice while I was at Canisius, and I just love the classical repertoire of opera and sacred music.
Music is my favorite thing in life besides writing, so the two usually go together for me. Even when I’m not writing about it specifically like in Violinist, it’s a big part of my process: I make playlists for all my works in progress and find songs that fit with each scene. I have to have music playing while I write, as well.
Q. Based on the synopsis of your book, it is clear that you have put a lot of passion into it. How did you come up with such a beautiful idea for a novel?
A. Oddly enough the idea came from a dream I had. The dream itself was basically chapter 1 of the novel, and it was so vivid that after I woke up I couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. I went to the school library that day (I was a sophomore at Canisius at the time) and checked out a couple recordings of Vivaldi’s music and a book about him. From that one scene I began to come up with a whole story for these characters, and I started writing that night. The story changed a lot
from what I originally thought it was going to be, but I didn’t stop writing until I finished the first draft a year and a half later. I didn’t know much of anything about Vivaldi or Venice when I started writing, but I fell so in love with the story that I couldn’t not write, so I did the research as I went. It was tough going at times, but the story and the project came to mean so much to me that I never gave up on it.
Q. What was your favorite part of writing the book?
A. I definitely loved going to Venice as a form of research! I got to a point where I knew that I couldn’t write about it anymore without seeing it for myself.
Like I mentioned above, I did just really love writing this story overall. I think my favorite parts to write were the sections describing the music – whether Vivaldi’s music or the music that Adriana writes over the course of the story – and describing how Adriana feels about music and performing it. Those passages are definitely the most autobiographical parts of the novel – Adriana’s feelings towards music are basically my own. The scenes with really heightened emotions were also favorites to write, even though those tended to take the most time to get right, and quite a few of them changed a great deal in revision.
Q. Which character in the book was your favorite?
A. It’s hard to choose! Adriana is the obvious answer; I got to know her so well and got so close to her while writing the book that sometimes it’s still a little weird to not be writing in her voice. I’m really proud of her as a character, because I like to think that she manages to be complex and realistic – it’s easy to root for her even though there are times when she can be frustrating.
With that said, Giuseppe will always have a special place in my heart. I love him for being the voice of reason (even if he’s telling Adriana what she doesn’t want to hear) but always being a loyal friend no matter what. It was always fun writing when he was on the page.
Q. How did you avoid distractions and writer’s block when writing the book?
A. I didn’t always, to be honest. As I mentioned, I wrote the first draft while I was in college, and so often I had to put it aside to do schoolwork (which is why the first draft took a year and a half). With that said, though, sometimes having so much else to do helped me focus: I had limited time to work on the novel, so I had to make the most of what time I did get.
This may be a bit of a controversial statement, but I don’t personally (and this is just me!) believe in writer’s block. To me the phrase implies some sort of magical, external reason why the writing isn’t happening, and I’ve never felt like that’s happened to me; whenever I’m feeling stuck I can usually pinpoint the reason why. Sometimes it’s something in the story that’s not working right, and sometimes I just need to take a break. And sometimes, as my advisor in college once told me, it’s that writing is like fishing, and some days they just aren’t biting. So definitely over the course of writing this book I learned how to take all those things in stride and work through them but also take a break when I need to.
Q. What are some of your favorite books?
A. The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
Green Darkness by Anya Seton
The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce
The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
The Diviners by Libba Bray