In 16th century Venice, the city’s famed glassmakers are secretly perfecting one of the Old World’s most astonishing inventions: the mirror. An object of glittering yet fearful fascination – was it reflecting simple reality, or something more spiritually revealing?
Taking the state of the art technology off the island is a crime punishable by death. One man, however – a world-weary war hero with little to lose – has a scheme..
Meanwhile, in two other iterations of Venice – Venice Beach, California in 1958, and The Venetian casino in Las Vegas in 2003 – two other schemers launch similarly dangerous plans..
The Mirror Thief is enthralling, intelligent and dark. A story of three narratives and a book called The Mirror Thief at its centre – the book within the book if you like.
I was recommended this by the staff at the City Lights bookstore in San Francisco. (Amazing bookstore – will write a post on that separately).
The Mirror Thief is a debut novel which has been met with wide acclaim although you may see some mixed goodreads reviews as well. I really enjoyed it, not because it’s David Mitchell-esque (there is a bit of debate about whether this is true), but because it is a good story in its own right – an intriguing thriller of secrets and alchemy set in one the most magical cities in the world.
“It is difficult, but probably necessary, to remember that books always know more than their authors do. They are always wiser. This is strange to say, but it’s true. Once they are in the world, they develop their own peculiar ideas.”
And it has left me wanting so much more of Venice.
“Did you ever happen to see a city resembling this one”? Kublai asked Marco Polo, extending his be-ringed hand from beneath the silken canopy of the imperial barge, to point to the bridges arching over the canals, the princely palaces whose marble doorsteps were immersed in the water, the bustle of the light craft zigzagging, driven by long oars, the boats unloading baskets of vegetables at market squares, the balconies, platforms, domes, campaniles, island gardens glowing green in the lagoon’s grayness.
“No, sire,” Marco answered, “I should never have imagined a city like this could exist.”
ITALIO CALVINO, Invisible Cities
AWARDS: NYT Notable Book of the Year