The Blind Contessa's New Machine: Book summary and reviews of The Blind Contessa's New Machine by Carey Wallace

The Blind Contessa's New Machine

A Novel

By Carey Wallace

The Blind Contessa's New Machine
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  • Published in USA  Jul 2010,
    224 pages.

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Book Summary

In the early 1800s, a young Italian contessa, Carolina Fantoni, realizes she is going blind shortly before she marries the town's most sought-after bachelor. Her parents don't believe her, nor does her fiancé. The only one who understands is the eccentric local inventor and her longtime companion, Turri. When her eyesight dims forever, Carolina can no longer see her beloved lake or the rich hues of her own dresses. But as darkness erases her world, she discovers one place she can still see - in her dreams. Carolina creates a vivid dreaming life, in which she can not only see, but also fly, exploring lands she had never known.

Desperate to communicate with Carolina, Turri invents a peculiar machine for her: the world's first typewriter. His gift ignites a passionate love affair that will change both of their lives forever.

Based on the true story of a nineteenth-century inventor and his innovative contraption, The Blind Contessa's New Machine is an enchanting confection of love and the triumph of the imagination.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"[A] charming and refreshingly modest debut. Wallace has a smooth style and a sure hand in combining near tragedy with whimsy, whether she's detailing Carolina and Pietro's social circle, the state of scientific knowledge, or the progression of Carolina's blindness. A work of surprising insight, humor, and heart." - Publishers Weekly 

"Writing with the assurance and the clarity of a seasoned author, Wallace crafts a seemingly simple, but ultimately iridescent, love story." - Booklist

"[An] enchanting debut... Carolina's struggle feels timeless. A dreamy, sensual fairy tale." - Kirkus Reviews

"Wallace is clearly a gifted writer and a wonderful storyteller. Her first novel, full of heart, wit and intelligence, is a remarkable accomplishment and gives us great reason to look forward to her next." - Debra Ginsberg, Shelf Awareness

"Carey Wallace has written a book of the senses, of sweet lemon blossoms and mysterious footfalls in the night. The Blind Contessa's New Machine is magical, rich and daring. You will be gloriously overwhelmed by this book. I know I was." - Sarah Addison Allen, New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells and The Girl Who Chased the Moon

"In this vibrant, aching romance, a young inventor helps a despairing contessa find an escape from her blindness in words and fantasies. In language both lustrous and lucid, Carey Wallace offers us a similar escape, transporting us into a lush and tirelessly imaginative dream of nineteenth-century Italy. To think that this is Wallace's first novel is to become suspicious that she has taken her sentences out of some ancient sorcerer's lost handbook; Wallace spirits us away with a master's spell." - Stefan Merrill Block, author of The Story of Forgetting

"An unusually poetic first novel, original and moving in its depiction of loss of sight and gain of words and love." - Sheila Kohler, author of Becoming Jane Eyre

"The Blind Contessa's New Machine is a delicate fable of loss, memory and most of all, the enduring legacy of self-sacrificing love. I was enchanted by Carey Wallace's gorgeous, magical prose, the effortless way she spins a timeless fairytale out of historical fact.  This is a novel that, like the contessa's dreams, casts a spell of ethereal beauty." - Melanie Benjamin, author of Alice I Have Been

"The Blind Contessa's New Machine is a dazzling, fanciful tale that celebrates the imagination. Carey Wallace's debut novel is like a lovely little petit fours: exquisite, delicious, perfect." - Carolyn Turgeon, author of Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Nancy D. (Charlotte, NC)
The Blind Contessa's New Machine
A magical read - part fantasy, part reality, part pain, part triumph. It is definitely not a "feel good" book - and I can't say that I liked the main characters - but it is certainly a book that would offer up lots of discussion. I didn't like the ending, but I'm not sure how it could have ended any differently.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Therese X. (Calera, AL)
The Blind Contessa's New Machine
Young 19th century Contessa, Carolina Fantoni, realizes she is losing her eyesight and tells her fiancé, who laughs as though it's a joke. When she tells her mother she's losing her sight, Mama only nods and sighs , "Yes. I have been in love, too.". Finally, she blurts out her fate to her father, who waves a hand in front of her eyes and finally concludes "But you haven't, yet!" Frustrated, she confides in her childhood friend, Turri, who has become a unique scientist and peculiar though clever inventor. He creates a unique gift for Carolina: a writing machine. Each letter of the alphabet has its own key in succession and she can touch them to make words appear from a special paper. This becomes her new mode of communication with friends as well as Turri when she wants him to meet her. The blind Contessa’s new machine soon creates a sensation but Turri's invention threatens to invade the privacy and intimacy of their friendship.

Because the book opens with the threat of blindness, it doesn't come as a surprise, yet as a reader, I felt, "Not yet! Don't become blind just yet!" because I wanted to know the real Contessa first. Well, as Carolina adapts to her cruel ailment with curiosity and action rather than self-pity, she shows her true self much more quickly and deeply. She stands above the other characters in the novel in courage and resourcefulness. Except for Turri. When she tells her friend that she begins to dream of wonderful adventures where not only can she see, but she can fly, he falls deeply in love with her (if he wasn't already!) and together they search for a future together. But can that happen if she is now married to Pietro and Turri has a wife and beloved young son?

This small gem of a book is larger reading than one expects. Yet, it could have been somewhat deeper on the supporting characters, and at times I wasn't sure exactly when Carolina was dreaming until she described something, so I gave the book a “4” rating. However, I believe the author, Carey Wallace, has a splendid way with words and descriptions and making the reader feel for the main characters, so I hope there will be further novels. She's certainly off to a good start!

Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by Maggie P. (Mount Airy, MD)
A Haunting Love Story
As Carolina prepares to marry Pietro she realizes she is going blind. Finding no solace in Pietro, Carolina turns to someone she has known since childhood, Turri. Through the years, Carolina and Turri grow closer despite the fact they are married to others. Things change when Pietro discovers the affair.

The story flows so well it is easy to read in one sitting. The end left me with a physical ache because of the resolution of the story. I would definitely recommend this book to others and look forward to Carey Wallace’s second book.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Susan S. (Middlebury, Connecticut)
The Blind Contessa's New Machine
When I first started reading "The Blind Contessa's New Machine, I was totally drawn to the main character Countess Carolina Fantoni and found myself wondering how her encroaching blindness was going to affect her life. Then I found myself wondering when the "new machine" mentioned in the title was going to manifest itself. I would have liked to know more about Turri's journey in developing this gift for Carolina. I also found that Carolina's vivid descriptions of "flying" were perhaps too drawn out and I found myself "fast forwarding" through those parts. I did love the characters and could picture them in my "mind's eye" as the story unfolded. If you love romance and colorful, out-of-the ordinary people coping with what life throws at them, you will enjoy this book.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Sandra L. (newton, MA)
The Blind Contessa's New Machine
A very slow book to begin with, this does get more interesting as it goes on.

It is about a blind Contess,her unexpired husband and the involvment of her long time companion,older than her, but whom they have a wonderful and powerful relationship.

It is based on a true story of the 19th century inventor and his ability to create a typewriter machine for helping her blindness.She ended up,through her dreams and her friend, by being able to communicate by a" writing machine"

A powerful book for anyone nearing the hardship of blindness and learning how to get around the tragedy of this

This is a good historical novel and would be excellent were it not too slow.

Rated 4 of 5 of 5 by Marsha S. (Nags Head, NC)
The Blind Contessa's New Machine
This book takes the reader to another world and time, and into the young life of Carolina as she journeys into adulthood. The author creates scenes that are richly detailed, as Carolina attempts to record everything in her mind because she finds she is going blind just as she is preparing for her marriage. There is a dreamlike quality to the story as we share her visually shrinking world and transition into the images she stores only in her mind. Her relationships with her family, her husband, and her childhood friend Turri frame the insular world in which she lives. I found the book to be very well-written, and I think the story will appeal to readers who love the written word and the well-turned phrase. But it may lack a wide appeal because of the difficulty in relating to the characters and circumstances of their lives.

...18 more reader reviews

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Carey Wallace can be found online at www.careywallace.com.

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