In 1592, Donata is a noble girl living in a palazzo on the Grand Canal. Girls of her class receive no education and rarely leave the palazzo. In a noble family, only one daughter and one son will be allowed to marry; Donata, like all younger daughters, will be sent to a convent.
Napoli returns to the locale of Stones in Water and For the Love of Venice, this time for a costume drama set in the late 16th century. At 14, Donata Mocenigo and her twin sister watch carefully as their noble parents set about finding a husband for their older sister. Venetian economics dictate that one daughter of a noble family will surely wed, but only with luck will a second daughter be married the remaining daughters either enter convents or care for a married brother's children. Eschewing a traditional romance, Napoli forges a plot with contemporary elements. Donata wants to see Venice and receive the same education as her brothers; she studies the family business and embraces what facts she can uncover about Venetian history and politics. Obtaining a working-class boy's clothes, she disguises herself and sets out on furtive daytime explorations of her beloved city. Soon she is befriended by an attractive young Jewish boy, who helps her find a morning job as a copyist (even though she can't read or write); with help from her sisters, her escapades go unnoticed by her parents. Enjoying the tour of historical Venice and the taste of its complex society and government, readers may not mind Donata's seeming immunity to the mores and prejudices of her day not even when, to avoid an arranged marriage, she anonymously and falsely denounces herself as a convert to Judaism and still earns herself a happy ending. Ages 10-up. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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Wendy Lamb Books
December 09, 2003
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Excerpt from Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli
A big fruit boat passes, rocking our gondola hard. Paolina tumbles against me with a laugh. I put my arm around her waist and hug her.
Paolina squirms free. "It's too hot, Donata." She pulls on one of my ringlets and laughs again.
Yes, it's hot, but it's a wonderful morning. The Canal Grande is busy. That's nothing new to us. From our bedchamber balcony my sisters and I watch the daily activity. Our palazzo stands on the Canal Grande and our rooms are three flights up, so we have a perfect view. But down here in the gondola, with the noise from the boats, and the smell of the sea, and the glare of the sun on the water, not even the thin gauze of my veil can mute the bold lines of this delightful chaos.
Our Venice, called La Serenissima, "The Most Serene," is frenzied today. My feet start to tap in excitement, but, of course, they can't, because of my shoes. Whenever I go on an outing, I wear these shoes. They have wooden bottoms thicker than the width of my palm; I have to practice before venturing out, or I'll fall. And even then, I go at Uncle Umberto's pace -- a blind man's pace. I look in envy at Paolina's zoccoli, her sandals with thin wooden bottoms. Paolina is only nine and she hasn't been subjected to high shoes and tight corsets yet.