Saturday, 8 July 2017

A Thousand Days in Venice - Marlena de Blasi

 















This is not a guidebook to Venice.  It is a memoir of a woman who fell in love with the city whilst falling in love with a Venetian who spotted her one day in a coffee shop and left her messages to "meet me tomorrow" etc.  The difference here is that she (a non-Italian speaker) was already middle-aged, with a golden career in America, two grown children and a nice home - and he? a non-English speaking bank manager of a small branch, same job for 30 years, no excitement, no family, an apartment he bathed and slept in and no chance of change.

Suddenly, for both of them, there was a chance of a new life, a total change in everything, and for her a change of country too.  He seemed a rather morose man, and certainly full of the Italian trait of knowing that things cannot be changed; if it takes three months to arrange to pay a bill, then it takes three months.  And into his life comes this woman who is desperate to understand this, desperate to make him (and herself) happy, and in reading it, your hope that they will succeed.

The descriptions of places and people made me smile and laugh, and read bits out to the hubs so that I could enjoy them all over again.  The way the smoking civil servant inhaled smoke into her nose as well as her mouth and exhaled just a tiny puff at the end;  the old fruit seller who, in the winter, set a fire in a coal scuttle to keep herself warm, and roasted apples in the embers of that fire, and so many more things.  A delight to read even though I wanted to shake the Italian, who was not only morose but dictatorial.... until I realised that he didn't know what joy was, really, until he met her.