CBR15 PASSPORT (Stamp #13: Different Genres, Metafiction)
CB515BINGO: (Europe square. Takes place in Florence, Italy. The city is very much a character in the book.)
This is the right book for the right person but I am not that right person. Trying to summarize the plot here is going to be problematic because there are a lot of threads weaving this story. Here goes.
A woman, Sylvia, is living in Florence, Italy as she nears the end of her battle with cancer. Sylvia is a successful author who is trying to finish her final novel, the adult version of an earlier series of children’s books that she published. Her novel takes place in a sort of alt-universe Florence called Thalia where most of the characters are pulled from either Italian Renaissance history or Shakespeare.
The story is nonlinear, told in both 1st and 3rd person, and moves pretty fluidly between Sylvia, the story she is writing, and the little voice/imaginary friend/muse that lives in her brain. This familiar “friend” serves as the narrator and various characters in her writing. It also gives Sylvia a voice during times in her life when she has no agency: during a tumultuous childhood with her terrible mother and her first marriage to an abusive husband.
This novel is dripping with literary references and I probably only caught and understood about 1/3 of them. I like learning new things, but if I have to google a reference every 5 pages, my escapist-leaning reading requirement is nowhere near being met. That being said, I can appreciate the writing without appreciating the story. Or, rather, appreciate some of the multiple storylines without enjoying the whole which never really coalesced in a very satisfying way for me. I suppose it’s a book about writers and writing. It is also about, in large part, being able to overcome trauma to live a life that contains some love and happiness inside it. I don’t know. Like I said. I was not the right person for this book.