Barbara Quick re-creates eighteenth-century Venice at the height of its splendor and decadence. A story of longing and intrigue, half-told truths and toxic lies, Vivaldi's Virgins unfolds through the eyes of Anna Maria dal Violin, one of the elite musicians cloistered in the foundling home where Antonio Vivaldi—known as the Red Priest of Venice—is maestro and composer.
Fourteen-year-old Anna Maria, abandoned at the Ospedale della Pietà as an infant, is determined to find out who she is and where she came from. Her quest takes her beyond the cloister walls into the complex tapestry of Venetian society; from the impoverished alleyways of the Jewish Ghetto to a masked ball in the company of a king; from the passionate communal life of adolescent girls competing for their maestro's favor to the larger-than-life world of music and spectacle that kept the citizens of a dying republic in thrall. In this world, where for fully half the year the entire city is masked and cloaked in the anonymity of Carnival, nothing is as it appears to be.
You don't have to be a musician or history lover to be intrigued by this book. Narrated by a mostly fictional character, this protagonist gives us an insight into one of the most famous musicians of all time - Antonio Vivaldi. Set in an orphanage for young girls (really it was for illegitimate children), music was one of the few ways to become successful in these places. Vivaldi was a big part of that, composing, conducting, and teaching the students how to play.
This novel described 18th century Venice perfectly - with all of the usual scandal associated with it. Barbara Quick's protagonist had a strong voice, full of questions and yet maturity for a young 14 year old. Her story, and of course Vivaldi's story enrapture the audience through their pains and successes. I also applaud Quick's unique interpretation of Vivaldi's actions towards the end of his life.
A very interesting read. Music lovers will be interested in this of course, but the novel doesn't make Vivaldi a main character to the exclusion of Anna Maria's voice - she has mysteries and dreams of her own. This novel is about a young woman's struggle to find herself in a world where by birth she is excluded.
Music lovers, historical fiction lovers, young adult readers, mystery lovers - this book really gives itself a wide audience.