Review: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli

The Gondola Maker
by Laura Morelli
335 pages
Published March 3rd 2014
In 16th-century Venice, the heir to a family boatyard rejects his destiny but is drawn to restore an old gondola with the dream of taking a girl for a ride. Venice, 1581 Luca Vianello is the heir to the city’s most esteemed gondola-making family. But when an accidental tragedy strikes the boatyard, Luca believes his true calling lies elsewhere. Readers will appreciate the authentic details of gondola craftsmanship along with a captivating tale of artisanal tradition and family bonds set in one of the world’s most magnificent settings: Renaissance Venice.

Morelli creates poignantly convincing characters in this handsome coming-of-age novel about adoration, pain, and destiny.
--Publisher’s Weekly starred review

Historical fiction at its best.
--Midwest Book Review

Laura Morelli holds a Ph.D. in art history from Yale University and is the author of Made in Italy.


If you are anything like me, then when you hear the word "gondola", this is the image that comes to mind:


But how many of you know about the art of crafting such a fine boat, how it was a family business, passed from father to son? Or the fact that rich people had their own gondolier, and that this boat was their main means of transport in old Venice, having a special passenger compartiment?

Laura Morelli's "The Gondola Maker" paints a well-documented image of 16th century Venice, the story being centered on Luca Vianello, the heiring son of a gondola-making family. When his moher dies, he blames his father and because of an accident at the boatyard resulting in everything being burned down, he feels he no longer belongs and tries to recreate his life.

This is how Luca becomes from a craftsman, a simple gondolier. But it is very clear that he doesn't belong, he is destined for something more. He draws the attention of a successful painter and becomes his private gondolier. In the meantime, he is working on restoring an awfully damaged gondola of this painter, that was probably crafted by Luca's grandfather. 

Luca also becomes obsessed with a young woman, daughter of a patrician by first seing her portrait in the artist's room. While he does strange side jobs for this woman, they fall in love with each other. But they clearly belong to two different worlds, him a gondolier and she a rich woman.

The story is told from the perspective of Luca Vianello, 1st person narrative, but there are also a few short chapters in 3rd person narrative, following "The Councillor", and while they somehow interrupt the flow of the book, the information that they provide is vital for a better understanding of what is happening.

I really enjoyed this book, though I felt it was slow in some parts and I was a little bit confused by the overuse of Italian words. I definitely recommend it for readers who are passionate about History and crafts, but also for the ones like myself, who are in search of something that they don't normally read.


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