Excerpt from The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Bellini Madonna

A Novel

by Elizabeth Lowry

The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry X
The Bellini Madonna by Elizabeth Lowry
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2009, 352 pages
    May 2010, 384 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

What can I say? She was radiant, heavy, impassable, and I waited for hours for the light under her door to go out so that I would not have to feel the weight of her wakeful presence across the corridor.

Time passes very slowly here. Getting through it is no mean feat. I either crawl about the town, my heart shuddering in the heat, or sit inertly at my north-facing bedroom window, breathing in the cool slope of the Dolomites. More often—and since my stay at Mawle this has become my real occupation, one which I try to put off but always give in to—I do some purposeful snooping.

The palazzo is full of curious junk and old bric-a-brac: behind a sparse frontier population of sheeted winter coats and flaccid trousers every cupboard seems to conceal a secret interior life rich with yellowing suitcases, chipped flowerpots, cracked picture frames, skittering mothballs, and, most annoying of all, shoeboxes stuffed with tight-lipped family photographs and trite Puppi family correspondence.

My darling Ludo, beware of the American, Lynch. That slippery fish knows everything, he knows about the existence of the Bellini and has even been sending me insinuating letters! Shall I invite him to Mawle in order to reel him in? Surely he can find the damn thing, if anyone can? Write soon to your anxious Maddalena, my big stud [stallone maschio mio].

No, I lie. I made that one up. There is no such vulgar and incriminating message in Signora Roper’s hand, just as there is no exact Italian equivalent for “my big stud.”

One afternoon I thought that I had at last found what I had been looking for. My wits weighed down as if with lead sinkers by Artemisia’s gnocchi margherita (potato dumplings, pulpy pomodoro, glittering green oil, a talcum spray of parmesan; you try it), prowling through the flagged rooms in search of something that would pull together the bizarre web of secrets into which I had so recently stumbled, I came across a low, dusty, glass-paneled bookshelf with a tasseled key, standing all on its own in a snug alcove.

Here, surely, I would discover, among a stash of calf- and leather-bound volumes, a second diary or notebook—its thick coffee-colored pages crisp under my prehensile fingers—that would at last give me the full account of how my Madonna had arrived at Mawle in the possession of Anna’s great-grandfather James Roper; the frank story of his tragically brief marriage— every last detail! But in it I found nothing, nothing at all, except for a pile of curling National Geographics (“Lucy: the Real Eve? An Interview with Richard Leakey”), an old flower press of the kind constructed from blotting paper pinned down between wooden boards by metal screws—releasing, at a twist, a starry head of silver-haired edelweiss—and a first edition, with some of its furry pages still uncut, of Robert Browning’s last collection of poems, Asolando.

On Sunday, three days ago, I left the house a little after midday to escape Artemisia’s pitying glances and strolled for an hour in the thin shade of the Foresto Vecchio. Across the rooftops the old clock tower of Catarina Cornaro’s castle stood white as a bone in the glare, its empty colonnades crowded with sunlight. The campanile of the cathedral tolled one slow saffron note: mass was long over, the throng dispersed. Behind Santa Maria a cramped piazzetta gave way to a row of stone steps, above which the faultless cornflower-bright sky unfurled its smooth banner of heat. The whole day, caught in a globe of pure color, seemed to proclaim its radical innocence. Even the trees on the horizon looked self-sufficient, their undersides gleaming as if stroked by a glazing brush, each tiny scalloped leaf outlined by a cloisonné shadow.

Excerpted from The Bellini Madonna, by Elizabeth Lowry, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC. Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Lowry. All rights reserved.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    A Land of Permanent Goodbyes
    by Atia Abawi

    When you're a refugee, everyone has lost, at least for the time being... And the journey ...

  • Book Jacket: Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano
    Munich matron and self-described worldly sophisticate, Isolde Oberreiter, has decided to retire to a...
  • Book Jacket: Eat the Apple
    Eat the Apple
    by Matt Young
    Truth is stranger than fiction. Matt Young's memoir tackles the space in between truth and ...
  • Book Jacket: Educated
    by Tara Westover
    Tara Westover had the kind of upbringing most of us can only imagine. She was the youngest of seven ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Sometimes I Lie
    by Alice Feeney

    This brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something a lie if you believe it's the truth?
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Auntie Poldi and the Sicilian Lions
    by Mario Giordano

    A charming, bighearted novel starring Auntie Poldi, Sicily's newest amateur sleuth.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Balcony

The Balcony
by Jane Delury

A century-spanning novel-in-stories of a French village brimming with compassion, natural beauty, and unmistakable humanity.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

I Y L D W D, Y'll G U W Fleas

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.