The Girl from Venice
by Martin Cruz Smith
The Girl from Venice is the tale of Cenzo, a very versatile and capable Italian fisherman, and Giulia, a young Jewish lady. Their lives intertwine in World War II in 1945 in Venice in the midst of conflicting players: Nazi soldiers, Mussolini’s Blackshirts, and the equally deadly Partisans. This work of historical fiction is a combination of thriller and mystery with a little romance thrown in.
I had conflicting feelings about The Girl from Venice. The plot has some interesting twists and turns. Part of this novel revolves around the many different ways of fishing in the lagoons near Pellestrina. I thought the story was a little slow in its extended descriptions of the art of fishing, but many of the details were essential in the plot progression. They explain how Cenzo and Giulia were able to deceive the Nazis searching for Giulia as well as how Giulia transformed from a wealthy, highly educated Italian Jew into a skilled fisherman in her own right.
The author had a lot of decisions to make about the reader’s background knowledge concerning Italy and its politics in 1945. He did a good job of supplying necessary details without oversimplifying or being pedantic.
The setting varies between city and fishing village. There are complicated family relationships involving Cenzo, his mother, two brothers and sister-in-law, and through those relationships we discover more about each character. The character of Giulia, however, is mostly undeveloped. We want to know more but are left unsatisfied.
As the story ended, so did its unfulfilled promise. The idea was a good one, the setting was interesting, but none of the characters were particularly engaging or well-developed. There was one major twist in the plot, but otherwise it seemed to just keep plodding along. It took me many days to read it just because nothing kept drawing me back. Not one to usually comment on a book’s cover, I must say the cover was outstanding–dramatic and perfect for this book.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Simon & Schuster for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.