Pardon the sporadic posts. I’m still not feeling quite up to scratch but I know need to whack away at the growing pile of books I have to review or else I’ll never catch up.
I’ve always been in awe of Nick Bantock’s Griffin and Sabine series, and I’ve wanted to read Nick Bantock’s The Venetian’s Wife (book #105 for 2009) for some time now, just to see how he fares outside of Griffin and Sabine.
The Venetian’s Wife, subtitled “A Strangely Sensual Tale of a Renaissance Explorer, a Computer, and a Metamorphosis,” is another epistolary tale from Nick Bantock, tracing the email correspondence between a museum researcher, Sara Wolfe, and N. Conti, a centuries-old ghost trapped within the confines of modern technology. Conti hires Sara to track down the pieces of a peculiar art collection, and Sara discovers more of herself — and her destiny — in the process.
Nick Bantock once again draws on his winning formula of mysterious letters and hauntingly beautiful artwork in The Venetians Wife, but I find that the effort comes up a bit short.
Perhaps it is because after Griffin and Sabine the winning formula draws thin — just how long will Bantock keep using the “letters from nowhere” and the myriad of questions posed but left unanswered?
Or perhaps it’s because Bantock tells a better story with less words than full text? I suspect so. The Venetian’s Wife is beautiful enough; Bantock is a genius with the ephemera. But story-wise, it leaves so much more to be desired, I almost wish someone else wrote it instead.
I started out pretty nice, the premise was good and the pace was good, and then an excess of serendipity happens and it goes downhill from there, to a giant whopper of an ending that made me wonder what the heck happened in the book.
I find this sad because all the right elements were right there — mystery, mysticism, and even a great love story — and I feel that he could’ve hit it out of the ballpark, but somehow they didn’t come together, as if all the careful attention was given to the illustrations that there was none left over for the story. And you’re left with a lukewarm coffee table book that’s nice to look at but doesn’t really do much else.
Sigh, I’m all for pretty books but it’s disappointing when it gets in the way of what promises to be a great story. I’ve got a couple more Nick Bantock books in my TBR (Windflower and The Forgetting Room), I think I’ll space them out for now, as the novel doesn’t seem to be Bantock’s genre.
my copy: hardcover with dustjacket, mooched from Vee in California
my rating: 3/5 stars