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She completed a degree in English and anthropology, before studying law at the University of British Columbia and making a career in family law. She enrolled. Roberta Rich says she was already working on the novel that is now The Midwife of Venice. More suspense! More conflict! Obviously the advice was taken, and worked, and the novel was published in by Doubleday Canada and has done very well indeed.

The Midwife of Venice takes place in — yes — Venice, in and we follow the story of a Jewish midwife, Hannah, and her husband Isaac. Walking up the staircases and through musty passages and narrow streets strung with drying laundry, I began to wonder what life must have been for Jews who flocked to the ghetto as one of the few safe havens available at the time.

I started thinking about my characters and a plot almost immediately after visiting the ghetto. Within a few weeks, I had a pretty good sense of the character and how I wanted the plot to progress. The buildings are mostly the same but life there is very different now than it was at the time of this novel. In the novel we have the Jews of Venice confined to the Ghetto from midnight until the ringing of the morning bells of St. When the fictional Hannah ventures out of the Ghetto to assist a Christian woman in a difficult birth she knows she is risking her own safety, but she hopes that by doing so she may be able to help her husband who has been forced into slavery.

Today the Ghetto is home to very few Jews, the synagogues are used for various purposes; some open only for certain holidays and the tours explaining the history of the Ghetto and the Jews of Venice. The Midwife of Venice is a good place to start if you are planning a trip to Venice and are interested in the Jewish history of the city. Happily for readers who enjoyed this book, you will be very pleased to know that Roberta Rich is currently working on a sequel and will continue the story of Hannah and Isaac — and will very likely be as bestselling a novel as The Midwife of Venice.

And there are some authors who capture a place so perfectly that when you travel to that place theirs are simply the only books to read while there. Before a trip to Venice I re-read a couple of my favourite novels in the Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery series by Donna Leon and took a couple of others with me — as well as several books by other authors that I ended up putting aside, as I rushed off to a bookshop to buy more Donna Leon.

I started with Dressed for Death , published in , it is only the third in the series and we meet a younger and slightly more idealistic Brunetti than in the more recent novels. Poor Guido is left behind by his family who head off to the mountains for a summer holiday — this is the usual summer practice of Venetians, leaving the heat and humidity and the onslaught of tourists to escape to the cool fresh air of the nearby mountains in August each year — many closing their restaurants and businesses to do so.

His holiday plans disappear in the humidity and Brunetti finds himself investigating the world of prostitutes and transvestites, finding among them the influence and involvement of some powerful but not so respectable local citizens. I chose this title because the story takes place in Cannaregio, the neighbourhood were we made our home for a couple of cold weeks in January. This book was written almost 10 years after Dressed for Death and things have changed.

Again it is August, hot and humid in a city full of tourists and many Venetians are out of the city to escape it all. When a nasty old woman, ora Grismondi, is murdered it is quickly decided that her eastern European maid is guilty. By now orina Elettra and Brunetti have a very efficient and effective working relationship, with her contacts and her computer she has the answers he wants before he even knows to ask the questions.

Having rushed through Doctored Evidence in a day, in bed with a vicious Venetian flu, I returned to Acqua Alta for one more book. Friends in High Places , published in , finds Brunetti with a very personal problem.

He receives a visit from serious young building inspector who tells him about a plan to consolidate various departments related to buildings in Venice, and then asks Brunetti to produce documents regarding the purchase of his apartment and all plans and approvals for any renovations that have been done since he has lived there.

You can very well laugh, as Guido does at first, but it is a serious problem. When Franco Rossi is found dead the story becomes — as we fully expected — a murder investigation. I finished reading Doctored Evidence on the plane on the way home and with great satisfaction passed it along to my husband who will continue to read about Venice for a few more days while I move on to all the books I did not read on my holiday. The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons.

This novel captures a time and place, taking the reader to another world. There is an old-fashioned quality to the storytelling and the writing, and you will find yourself immersed in this novel from the very start. We meet the Landau family, parents Anna, an opera singer, and Julian, a novelist, and their daughters Margot and Elise.

They live in affluent comfort in Vienna until the days just before the Second World War. Anna and Julian are well aware of the danger they will all face if they remain in Vienna. Their eldest daughter, Margot, has just married and is emigrating to the United States with her husband — sorry to be leaving her family but excited to begin her married life in a new country. Elise is granted a visa to go the England to work as a maid — this is the only way her parents have found to get her out of Europe to a place where she will be safe.

So, we have 19 year old Elise Landau packing her fashionable clothes, including a ball gown and her Hermes scarves, and off she goes to work in the country house of the Rivers family in Dorset. This girl who was always served by a maid herself, whose meals were made by the family cook, whose baths were run for her, is now the most junior of the domestic staff in a British country house. It is a difficult transition, made all the more so because she so desperately misses her family and fears for their safety.

Anna and Julian are struggling to get visas themselves so that they can leave Austria for New York where Anna has been promised work with the Metropolitan Opera. As time passes there are more and more expensive bribes to demanded in order to secure a visa, and everyone knows that time is running out for the Jews of Vienna.

The Second World War changed the structure of British society forever, as the old aristocratic families struggled to hold on to their estates. Only a generation after the First World War young men are once again going off to war, many not returning, leaving elderly parents without heirs. Young women who left home to work in the factories and in the fields, will never again to be content to be treated simply as decoration. Natasha Solomons knew she wanted to write something about the Jewish girls who came to England to work as domestic help during the Second World War.

Many, like her character Elise, came from homes where they had been the waited upon, not those doing the waiting. In the beginning the war seems far away for all but Elise, who listens for news of what is happening in Europe. It is not until England enters the war and the young men leave to fight that life really changes at Tyneford House. Elise now works in the fields as well as in the house.

She has come to love this part of England, the sea and the fields, the people for whom she works and lives with, the fishermen and the villagers — but still she misses her family and worries about their fate. At the end of the story it is revealed that the novel was inspired by a real place. This house was eventually taken over during the war with the owner, and the whole village evacuated. The house and village are still deserted — a beautiful piece of countryside and coastline frozen in time — the time that Natasha Solomons has so perfectly captured in The House at Tyneford.

This book was about the year following the sudden death of her husband, John Dunne, and her own experience with grief. Little did she know that her experience with grief was only just beginning. One can only imagine the devastation of this experience. Joan Didion describes her new book, Blue Nights , as a meditation on motherhood and aging. A book she says was so difficult to write that she almost returned the publishers advance. Blue nights, for Joan Didion, are the long summer solstice evening hours, a time of reflection, a melancholy time. As she explores her own experience as a mother, and as she revisits her daughters childhood years Joan Didion looks at that time with the maturity of age, and the clarity of grief.

I have put two photographs with this review — one taken of Joan and Quintana in , when Joan would have been 35 years old, a beautiful and happy mother — and one taken this year, Joan Didion at 77, a woman worn by time — and grief. As this mother remembers, she acknowledges what she can now see as warning s, that all was not well with her daughter, but life was busy and she had no reason to look for them at the time. Joan Didion and John Dunne were busy writers, traveling constantly, moving in celebrity circles, their daughter always with them.

But memories do not bring solace to a grieving parent — those memories may simply contribute to the pain, they may simply make it all the more awful that this child is no longer living. She also noted that as a parent you promise to protect your child, but that children are inherently unprotectable.

In a recent interview about Blue Nights it was obvious that Charlie Rose was being as gentle as he could be with a very fragile looking Joan Didion, but he did not shy away from asking about the difficult questions that she examined in her book. She spoke about this book being not only about her daughter, and her experience with grief, but also about how we think of ourselves as we age — something she had never spent much time thinking about in the past.

Not only do our children age, but we do as well. She knows she is not responsible for all of the things that she cannot help but feel guilty about, and she does not regret her life. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland. Susan Vreeland has a reputation for writing well researched and well written novels about artists. Her most recent book Luncheon of the Boating Party lives up to our expectations.

Renoir, by the age of 39, had a reputation for painting portraits — family portraits and women in the nude. In this novel we meet Renoir at a point in his career when he has been experimenting, with other artists of his time, with a new style of painting which became known as Impressionism.

Of course now Impressionist Art is highly regarded but that was not so at the time, except by some very astute art collectors. Renoir questions whether or not he is wise to continue to paint this way but is compelled to make one more painting in the Impressionist style before giving it up to go back to the unsatisfying but lucrative portrait painting. Renoir chooses his location, a popular Inn and restaurant on a river outside of Paris.

He knows the family and they agree to allow him to rent a balcony overlooking the river, where he proposes to paint a group of people enjoying lunch and conversation. There we meet the lovely daughter of the Inn keeper and the others who will model for this painting.

The others include the wealthy banker and art collector Charles Ephrussi, as well as other painters and actresses and models, and for a time the writer Guy de Maupassant. Renoir hired and paid the models, who were required to come to the restaurant each Sunday for a period of several summer weekends.

They spent time boating, eating a generous and beautifully prepared meal, and then posed to Renoirs direction until he was satisfied with his days work — or the sun set. We learn about Auguste Renoir himself, a man with a reputation with women — and a man who always put his art first. And, we learn a great deal about art as we read, especially about the Impressionist movement.

We read about the change happening at this time in the way in which art was exhibited and the rise of commercial galleries. We learn about life during the Siege of Paris, which all of these characters had lived through only ten years earlier, during the Franco Prussian War. The painting itself hangs in the Phillips Collection in Washington, D. Susan Vreeland saw the painting there some years ago. Comment 0 Likes. An amazing woman, an exceptional book. Luncheon of the Boating Party by Susan Vreeland Susan Vreeland has a reputation for writing well researched and well written novels about artists.

Nude women in Parry Sound

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