Monday, 10 May 2010

The Rossetti Letter by Christi Phillips

I love historical fiction and am a bit of a culture vulture. I also have a thing for reading about courtesans and Geishas (they are NOT the same!) so when I cam across this book, my interested was sufficiently piqued. So I borrowed this book...I'm borrowing a lot lately and buying. I often borrow because I hate buying a book and then end up hating the book...though I sell/donate it. Anywho going off track here...I AM reviewing a book after all!
I could have written a summary myself but after you read my review you'd understand why I decided to go with the one on Goodreads.

In this captivating debut, Christi Phillips blends fact and fiction, suspense and sensuality into a vibrant, richly imagined novel in which a modern historian uncovers a courtesan's secret role in a shocking conspiracy of seventeenth-century Venice.

Claire Donovan always dreamed of visiting Venice, though not as a chaperone for a surly teenager. But she can't pass up this chance to complete her Ph.D. thesis on Alessandra Rossetti, a mysterious courtesan who wrote a secret letter to the Venetian Council warning of a Spanish plot to overthrow the Venetian Republic in 1618. Claire views Alessandra as a heroine and harbors a secret hope that her findings will elevate Alessandra to a more prominent place in history. But an arrogant Cambridge professor is set to present a paper at a prestigious Venetian university denouncing Alessandra as a co-conspirator -- a move that could destroy Claire's paper and career.

As Claire races to locate the documents that will reveal the courtesan's true motives, Alessandra's story comes to life with all the sensuality, political treachery, and violence of seventeenth-century Venice. Claire also falls under the city's spell. She is courted by a handsome Italian, matches wits with her academic adversary, bonds with her troubled young charge, and, amid the boundless beauty of Venice, recaptures the joy of living every moment.... 

Well this was a difficult read. It took some time and to be honest I didn't even finish the book. It is a book of two stories, two different times and cultures. That I liked.. The present retracing the past in an attempt to find out what happened is clever and I like clever with a hint of historical fiction. Alessandra Rossetti is a 17h Century Venitian courtesan who is tangled up in a high level espionage drama aka "The Spanish Consipracy". Claire Donovan is working on her dissertation and hopes to discover the exact role Alessandra played.

She unfortunately can't afford the trip. Gwen Fry is a teenager with a knack for causing trouble and in need of a chaperone to take her to her father in Europe. This brings them together and then leads them to Italy and this is as far as I got really. It was neither compelling or really worth it. I gave it my best shot...even skimming ahead a bit and found out both girls meet really attractive Italian stallions, which was a little too cliché pour moi.

The Italian words made it a bit difficult to read as my Italian is extremely basic. Even Alessandra fails to really come to life. Her narrative was far better than Claire's from the start but then it fell flat around the time I stopped and from my skimming never took off again. I wanted to enjoy this book...badly. I hated that I didn't finish but c'est la vie.

Verdict: A good start, mediocre middle and as a result I never finished. It has the makings of a good story/book but didn't really do it for me. I'm sure others have this book and had a much better experience...I didn't. I won't recommend it to anyone to be honest.

Author: Christi Phillips
Release Date: 3rd March,2008
Publishers: Pocket Books
Pages: 416

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Miel Abeille said...

This is a book I would expect to love, but your review helps a lot. Some historical fiction is amazing, others, not so much. Thanks!

Sa Toya said...

Thank you I really thought it would be an amazing read but it just didn't happen. You win some, you lose some I guess.