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Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill

Sisters of Glass

by Stephanie Hemphill

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The verse format was the perfect way to describe glass making and glass blowing. The author gives you a clear view of what is beautiful and what is art. However the characters were one dimensional. I didn't know the history of murano glass nor much about the rules of the time. A lot of the work to get Maria married seemed unnecessary. If you haven't read a novel in verse before this wouldn't be a good place to start as the plot is vague. ( )
  SparklePonies | Mar 9, 2014 |
Having actually been to Murano, I was super excited to read this book. There's nothing better than getting to remember the awesome places I've been! What I did not know going into this book was that it was written in verse. At first, I assumed it was my lack of attention, but it's not in the description anywhere, so go forward with this knowledge as my gift to you.

Ordinarily, this would have been a revelation of tragic proportions, since I'm not typically a big fan of poetry, but I just read and enjoyed Love & Leftovers, so I went into this with an open mind. Besides, the first sentence, while not quite arresting, is pleasant. I like the comparison of the polishing, which implies that the girl is an object like the mirror.

However, the verse really didn't work for me in this one. Maria doesn't really seem like she would think/speak/write in verse; she's an artist, not a linguist. The language did not seem, to me, to flow very naturally from her. Additionally, the lines do not read like verse to me; most of the time, they feel like prose that has been hacked up into smaller lines. Of course, I'm not well-versed in verse, so take that for what its worth.

Also, I totally don't get why Maria's sister Giovanna is so rude about her father having decided to marry off the younger daughter first. Even if she doesn't like that she was passed over, it's not like Maria asked for the honor to be bartered to the highest bidder. That totally made me angry.

The story I liked, although it wasn't especially original; it had a very Shakespearean comedy type feel to it. If you like quick, cute stories, you might like Sisters of Glass. ( )
  A_Reader_of_Fictions | Apr 1, 2013 |
Review also published on my blog: AWordsWorth.blogspot.com
eARC received from publisher for review

I confess to being captured by the cover of this one. Well, the cover and the fact it is about a family of Venetian glassblowers. (I love Venetian glass, and stories of Italy in general in general, but especially glassblowing - ever since I took a glassblowing workshop a few summers ago. Fell. In. Love! I digress...) What I didn't realize when I requested the book on NetGalley was that it's a novel in verse -- talk about a happy surprise.

The story is simple: Maria, the youngest daughter, has been selected to marry into the nobility instead of her older (and the expected and socially accepted choice) sister Giovanna. Maria's love is the fornica, she loves the entire process of her family's glassblowing business and takes great pride in mixing the recipes to perfection. Giovanna on the other hand is perfectly suited to life among the nobility, and finds it very difficult to adjust to her sister taking her place. The family dynamics and sisterly love-and-tension are beautifully depicted, and it's easy to get a sense of the state of things. And then, the family hires a new glassblower to assist them in the fornicas. Luca is rough and sometimes rude, an orphan with no idea of his family, and incredibly gifted. Without realizing it, Maria falls for him -- just as her family arranges for a nobleman to marry her. What happens next is a testament to the bond of sisterhood, and proof that "love conquers all."

A note about the format of the book: the verses are not very structured. It actually took me a bit to realize that it was actually written in verse, as opposed to strange formatting on my Kindle. They're free verse, which I pretty much expect of a verse novel, but a bit prose-y at times. Some of them are fractured, or seem random out-of-the-sky, but it does work within the larger context of the novel. It helps build a contextual depth that would be missing otherwise: glimpses and tidbits of the family dynamics and Maria's personal struggles to balance who she really is with who her family expects her to be. It won't work for everyone, but it is a sweet story. And now I really want to be back at a fornica myself ... ( )
  RivkaBelle | Mar 9, 2013 |
Stephanie Hemphill writes a unique and captivating story about a family of glassblowers in 15th Century Venice. The story focuses on sisters Giovanna and Maria and their strained relationship.

Maria and Giovanna live on the island of Murano, famous for it’s glassmaking. Maria grew up helping the family business by mixing batches of glass, helping out in the furnace, and dreaming of someday becoming a blower. Traditionally, it is the eldest daughter who marries into nobility but Maria’s father specifically ordered that she be the one to marry into nobility right before his death. This causes her elder sister Giovanna to become resentful of Maria.

“ Giovanna shoots me
only a sideways glance
as I lace into my new green dress.

I want to scream,
‘I will trade positions,’
that I Desire to polish glass
and stoke the fires
and see the creation of crystal,
like I was permitted to do
when I was a little girl.

But I promised Father
on his deathbed that I would
honor his first and greatest wish for me.
I just did not know I would
lose my sister even before
I lose my Murano.”

Now 15 years old, Maria is forbidden from working with the glass she loves so much to stay indoors brushing her hair, and wearing fancy dresses, while her family tries to find her the perfect suitor. But when a young man comes to work for the family Maria starts to fall in love, but not with her suitor.

“ To follow the head,
or the heart,
this is the question
that rips me apart.”

Overall, I really enjoyed this book, the writing was great, the story interesting (I really enjoyed learning about the art of glassblowing!) and I liked the main character, Maria, but something was missing that kept me from loving it. ( )
  BornBookish | Feb 7, 2013 |
Sisters of Glass by Stephanie Hemphill
Renaissance Venice, a world far different from our own. One where women have few rights and even fewer choices. Maria’s future has been decided for her since infancy. She is to make a great marriage. By the time of her father’s death, it appears that her marriage might be the only way to save the family glass blowing business. But Maria wants more than to save the family business, she wants to be a part of it. She’s an artist. And when another artist comes to live with them and work for them, Maria can’t help but be drawn to him. Her fate looks bleak, as does that of her sister. And the resulting tension melts into a sisterly tale of love and sacrifice.

This is a novel in verse that can be read in day, maybe even a sitting. The language is a pleasure to read and the struggles of Maria and her family to find a balance between success and happiness are richly conveyed in the most sparse and simple of verses. Ideal reading for any romantics who like their stories to end happily ever after.

  katie.funk | Jun 4, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0375861092, Hardcover)

Maria is the younger daughter of an esteemed family on the island of Murano, the traditional home for Venetian glassmakers. Though she longs to be a glassblower herself, glassblowing is not for daughters—that is her brother's work. Maria has only one duty to perform for her family: before her father died, he insisted that she be married into the nobility, even though her older sister, Giovanna, should rightfully have that role. Not only is Giovanna older, she's prettier, more graceful, and everyone loves her.

Maria would like nothing more than to allow her beautiful sister, who is far more able and willing to attract a noble husband, to take over this role for her. But they cannot circumvent their father's wishes. And when a new young glassblower arrives to help the family business and Maria finds herself drawn to him, the web of conflicting emotions grows even more tangled.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:30 -0400)

When a new glassblower arrives to help in the family business, the attraction Maria feels for him causes a web of conflicting emotions to grow even more tangled.

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