Many thanks to Taniya Barrows, Owner/Manager of THE READING CHAIR Independent bookstore in Ramona, California for permission to reprint her blog entry about THE FOUR SEASONS
Monday, November 10, 2008
I was in a foul mood. I had just endured a pretty crumby weekend and I was in between books. Four Seasons caught my eye and I remembered how much I enjoyed chatting with Ms. Corona. So I plopped onto my couch and began examining the exterior of the book, at which time I began to get a sinking sensation (yes, you could insert the age old book cover cliché here). I loved the concept of the plot; two orphaned sisters raised in the Venetian orphanage Vivaldi taught at and composed for and how the three lives intersected and influenced each other. But I have been burned before and something on this jacket cover, I can’t really articulate what, gave me the suspicion that the pages inside held the expected: superficial characters, a drawn out plot line and the sensationalistic and predictable subjugation and use of women in 18th century Italy!
Wow, was I cranky or what?! I was also very wrong!
That’s all it took, just three pages and I was hooked! I honestly started this book in the absolute worst mindset. I even told myself to just power through it and skim if I needed to. Yet, three short pages into this book all of that melted away. I was now emotionally invested in these two young girls who only had each other in a frightening world. I had to keep reading – not skimming, reading! I had to know that my girls were going to be okay. I needed to know that someone would be there to look out for them and shepherd them through a society that didn’t exactly view women as much more than pretty things that produced heirs; and if she wasn’t pretty, a nunnery was the best she could hope for.
The most remarkable part of this book is the growth of these two women. I found it easy in the beginning to think of them as “my girls.” Each moment I had to sit and read I was able to check in on “my girls.” However, as the story progressed and they were growing up, Maddalena and Chiaretta could no longer belong to anyone, not even the reader.
The Four Seasons is a magnificent surprise. Read it, I urge you! It is a story of life and the journey we all travel from childhood to adulthood artfully told. Two sisters diverge on the road of life and follow their own paths yet remain true to each other. Laurel Corona has given us a beautiful lens to watch these incredible girls grow into the remarkable women anyone would wish for as a sister, a wife, a friend. Corona even rejects the stereotype of the domineering man who must be overcome and beaten down. Men, women, the Catholic Church, the whispered customs of 18th century Venetian nobility and a demanding and controversial composer of the day are all respectfully represented and honored in this beautiful book.