The Blind Contessa's New Machine Summary and Reviews

The Blind Contessa's New Machine

A Novel

by Carey Wallace

The Blind Contessa's New Machine

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About this book

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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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.

Vicki O. (Boston, MA)

Delightful Debut
This book is not a page turner, but I found myself drawn into the story. I loved the author's lyrical yet simple writing style. By using vivid descriptions and fresh dialogue, the author treats the reader to a visual experience. There was an earthy/dream like quality that reminded me of some of Alice Hoffman's novels and she is one of my favorites. Hopefully we will hear more from Carey Wallace.

Sandra H. (St. Cloud, Minnesota)

The Blind Contessa's New Machine
A beautiful young girl growing up with little attention from her loving but distant parents, Contessa Carolina Fantoni is allowed to do what she wants until they discover that she spends most of her days with Turri, her married neighbor who fills her mind with his impractical but fascinating and often beautiful experiments. When Turri, 10 years her senior, tells the 17-year-old Carolina that he is in love with her, his words ring "in her mind like an alarm bell."

At 18 Carolina marries Pietro, the most eligible suitor in her neighborhood, and is set to live a life of luxury. Unfortunately she is going blind but neither Pietro nor her parents believe her until it happens. Left alone with only the handsome but unimaginative Pietro and a servant to read to her, Carolina lives in her dreams until she stumbles her way to the lake where she had spent her childhood. There she meets Turri who creates a special "writing machine" for her so they can communicate. Perhaps his only practical invention, this machine will eventually determine the outcome of their lives.

This beautifully realized story, takes readers into a world that is part fairy tale and part fantasy yet still grounded in reality. Readers see the world as Carolina sees it, experiencing her gradually diminished sight and her attempts to live in a dark world.

Roseann B. (Santee, CA)

A tale of loss, both physical and emotional
The real premise of this romantic story is the fact that Carolina realizes she is going blind right before her wedding day and while most do not believe her, Turri does and creates a writing machine (typewriter) which leads to a hidden romance and a love triangle that lasts a lifetime.

I should begin by saying that I generally stay away from romances, unless there is some paranormal aspect present, but I really enjoyed this story. The romance, while ever-present, does not overpower the trials that Carolina faces at dealing with blindness. I think that losing my sight is my (and probably most readers') greatest fear and Ms. Wallace has Carolina face it with dignity and grace. I also love the idea that someone would create a way for his beloved to communicate when she no longer could write. Wallace also adds a depth to the characters which is not often seen in romance fair—there are undertones of deeper psychological torment throughout that made this a book I did not want to put down.

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.

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!

...18 more reader reviews

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

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