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The Venetian Bargain

by Marina Fiorato

The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato X
The Venetian Bargain by Marina Fiorato
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There are currently 22 member reviews
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  • Virginia M. (San Antonio, TX)
    My venture into a new kind of historical novel
    I will start this review with the conclusion - which is: I cannot say I loved it, but I did like the book.

    I am a historical fiction fan but my preference is to read novels about American history. I occasionally venture into English history, but usually with a few misgivings because I just don't enjoy that history as much as my normal fare. I have read and enjoyed books that tell the background of some American immigrants who had roots in Italy; but I think was one of my first books purely about Italian history. As a result, it took me a little while to get into this book. I am not going to blame that on the author – I think it was just my lack of previous knowledge

    I must say, however, I found the frequent inclusion of words that had no meaning to me and words that an online search did not provide a meaning somewhat frustrating. For instance on page 8, the word "portonera" is used. From its context, I presumed it meant something similar to a Mother Superior but I remain uncertain. Then on Page 9, the city of Venice is called a "polly-pole". From that context I could tell it was derogatory term but I could not find it in web search either. Then when the narrative switches to Constantinople, words like yashmak and ormisi were liberally thrown in. Now, I was able to search for these words and usually was able to find them. As I said, the author's tendency to impress us with words such as these proved her acquaintance with the language but did not improve my reading pleasure.

    As I gained better footing in the novel, I enjoyed the character development and developed empathy for the main character, a young Muslim girl trained in medicine who flees her homeland to avoid an act of revenge by the Sultan. She ends up on a voyage to Venice on the same ship where a man suffering from bubonic fever is the main cargo – a dreadful scheme of the Sultan to smuggle this man into Venice and thereby gift Venice with the Plague.

    Her adventures as a Muslim in Christian Venice during the 16th Century while the Plague is raging present an interesting setting. I enjoy learning and the book presented me with new information about treating the Plague and the Venetian culture in that era.

    Until I almost finished the book, I could not understand why they chosen the image on the cover of the book – which gives the impression of wealth woman in a stylish dress – since our heroine dresses very modestly true to her Muslim culture. I wondered if the cover was aimed at indicating a possibly torrid romantic tone to the book. In the end, I understood what it portrayed and apologize for jumping to conclusions.

    I am not going to search for another book by this author, but if you like this era and this culture I predict you will enjoy this book very much.
  • Catherine H. (Nashua, NH)
    The Venetian Bargain
    An interesting book; although not my favorite, still very rich in details on Venice and the black plague. The author definitively did her homework.
  • Mal H. (Livermore, CA)
    The Venetian Bargain
    Fiorato does a wonderful job with the historical facts of the time: Constantinople, Venice, the ongoing conflict of Venetians vs. Ottoman Turks, religious issues, the plague, the architect Palladio, the great fire of Venice, medical and medicinal practices of the 16th century.

    The main protagonist Feyra, a Turkish doctor torn between her heritage and loyalty not to mention her oath as a physician is a woman with a strong moral compass with humankind her focus. Great to see Feyra stand out as feminist during this period where women were ignored for their intellect and given talents due to their sex. Tireless she tends to the afflicted as well as attempts to desperately discover a cure to fend off the plague.

    The narrative is exciting and well balanced combining the plague issues with a gentle love story. Lots of twists and turns as well as the Biblical reference of the Tribulation woven into the storyline very cleverly adding interest. The setting of Venice with all its wonderful references, Feyra a character ahead of her time, the battle of dealing with the plague all make for an enjoyable historical fiction read of the 16th century.
  • Barbara C. (Fountain Hills, AZ)
    The Venetian Bargain
    I very much enjoyed reading this book. It was tightly written, with movie-star characters, fascinating historical setting and direct, plot driven narrative. The book has several themes cleverly intertwined. The rivalry between Turkey and Venice in the fifteenth century creates the background of the story, and the terrible plague which ravaged the area drives the plot. Feyra, the heroine, is a model for feminist activism as she stows away on her fathers ship from Constantinople, , gets to Venice, uses her wiles and knowledge of medieval medicines, and helps to stem the plague. Annibale, the handsome "plague doctor" wearing the cloak and mask of his profession, presents the perfect hero -dashing, dedicated, aloof, and finally succumbs to the beauty and intellegence of the heroine. Fine romance in a historical fiction novel.

    The device the author employs to define the chapters and the story - The Four Horsemen of the Apocolypse - is deftly used in conjunction with the events of the plot. Here again, historical information is interesting and cleverly written.

    The only fault I found with the book is the rosy ending. It comes about so abruptly, cleanly and wrapped up, it seemed the author was tired of writing the book and decided to finish it off. I like happy endings, but after the devastating and dramatic force of the novel, the fairy tale ending sounded rather contrived.

    I would recommend The Venetian Bargain to my book club. They enjoy reading historical fiction, and there is much to learn and discuss here. It was refreshing to read a book with romance, but without the prurient graphic paragraphs of so many of the recent novels
  • Carol N. (Indian Springs Village, AL)
    The Venetian Bargain
    I love reading historical fiction and was eager to read about Venice. I was able to visualize the city perfectly based on the descriptions and story of the author. She was also able to bring alive a horrid time in history when the plague was taking the lives of so many - it was done with a delicate hand and not too graphic, yet you understood the seriousness and stealth of the disease. I do wish the author had spent a little more time on the interactions between the main characters and developed their relationship with each other more. It was my first book by this author but it won't be my last.
  • Vivian H. (Winchester, VA)
    Another Delightful Read by Marina Fiorato
    I love historical fiction and stories that are set in Italy. Venice is a city that brings to mind glorious visions of Renaissance art and architecture, gondolas slipping effortlessly through the canals, the beauty of hand blown Murano glass, the power of the Doges, the revelry of Carnival, the lion of Saint Mark and the horses of the Basilica of San Marco as the symbols of the city, the trading center from which Marco Polo set off on his journey of the Silk Road.

    The Venetian Bargain gives us a glimpse into this most fascinating of cities during the plague epidemic of 1576, which decimated the population. A young Turkish woman who served as physician to the ruler's mother, stows aboard a ship to avoid being forced into the Sultan's harem and finds herself caught in the midst of a plot by the Ottomans to destroy Venice by pestilence, war, famine and death. To avoid capture as an enemy of the state, she must hide. While in hiding she meets the architect, Andrea Palladio, who the Doge has commissioned to build a magnificent church with the hopes that the offering to God will save Venice from the plague. The story beautifully blends the flavors of east and west with religion, architecture, medicine, and material culture.

    Fiorato's development of her primary characters illustrate how people with different beliefs and cultural backgrounds that at first see only an enemy, an infidel or kafir can find common ground and accept the humanity of a person -if they are willing to look. That is the gift of this book. There is teaching without preaching - mixed with a bit of romance and mystery. While there were some parts of the story that moved slowly, I enjoyed the book immensely and recommend it to those who appreciate well-researched historical fiction.
  • Sherilyn R. (Bountiful, UT)
    Good But Not Great Historical Fiction
    You need to know that I love historical fiction. When I find an author who blends both history and fiction into a well written novel I couldn't be happier.

    Marina Fiorato's novel The Venetian Bargain is the first of her numerous historical novels I have read. She did a great job writing about history; Constantinople, Venice, the Plague, the architect Palladio and medical practices in the 16th century. What I found lacking was the fictional portion of this novel. The relationship between Freya and Annibale (two main characters in the story) was slow to develop and never explored sufficiently to be believable.

    That being said would I read other novels by this author, yes indeed! She had a great sense of place, kept me interested and wanting to know more.

    This is not great historical fiction but it is a good read.


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