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Judging a book by its cover

Book Review: The Merchants of Light - A Novel of Venice, by Marta Maretich
This was a spontaneous purchase from the work book sale. The blurb described the book as set in Würzburg at the end of World War II, and in eighteenth century Venice, and sounded intriguing. The cover was a detail from The Banquet of Cleopatra by Giambattista Tiepolo.

The book begins with Lieutenant John D Skilton Jr's arrival in Würzburg in 1945. He is a Monuments Officer, tasked with the triage, repair, and preservation of artistic remains in the former war zone. He discovers that, whilst the Prince-Bishop's Residence is significantly damaged, on the inside, a number of frescoes remain more or less intact, and could be saved if the building can be made reasonably water-tight. This is the stepping off point for the main sections of the book, beginning with the marriage of Cecilia Guardi to Giambattista Tiepolo, and going on to describe several episodes in the lives of the Tiepolo family. Most of the story is in Venice itself, though one section deals with the trip to Würzburg, and another makes reference to trips to Spain. Finally the book returns to Würzburg in 1945, as though the preceding sections had been in Skilton's imagination, and describes his efforts to preserve the Residence.

The detail in these episodes is imagined, but is well considered, and provides an entertaining combination of light-heartedness and drama. A rewarding read, highly recommended.
Tags: art, books, europe, history, places
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