Review Blog

Sep 01 2014

Masquerade by Kylie Fornasier

cover image

Penguin, 2014. ISBN 9780143571070.
This is a sad tale of a young woman who is left alone on the death of her mother and who takes herself to Venice, in 1750, bearing a letter for the man whom she believes is her uncle. The setting is right at the beginning of Carnevale, a celebration of the riches of Venice, with the rich attending balls and parties and the theatre under cover of the gorgeous masks that are not only decorative, but function also to conceal identities, allowing behavior that would not be condoned in the normal world of the text.
Things appear to be fine for Orelia, a beautiful young woman, as she is welcomed into the family of her cousins, without being sure of the real connections to this influential family. Her strong-willed cousins seem to have a great deal of freedom offered by the mask-wearing that goes with the seven-month long celebration of Carnevale, both courting and being courted by eligible young men and some not so eligible. Much of the plot revolves around love interests and the desires of the young men and women to win the hearts of the one whom they feel is right for them. The intricate web of deception and intrigue unravels as the story progresses and we read of the mistakes of the servants and of the ruling families, leading to near disasters.
The ending is unexpected - and it is as if none of the events or plotting had occurred, as Carnevale begins to come to an end, and all of the things that had been done under the masks come to nothing. I felt both disappointed and unsatisfied, and really sad, at the sudden ending. I was captivated and felt that I really wanted to know what would happen to the young characters.
It is an interesting novel, in its complexity and its detail of the gorgeous fabrics, decorations, clothing and residences, but the underside, the poverty, malice, hurtful behavior and sense that nothing would change for anyone but the rich, was deeply unsettling to me. Yet I am sure that it is historically accurate and that I would only be dreaming if I thought things would be good and happy in the end.
Recommended as a good read - but with reservations for some editing errors that were evident.
Elizabeth Bondar

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