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The Floating Book by Michelle Lovric
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The Floating Book (2003)

by Michelle Lovric

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In 1470 Venice everyone was unhappy in his own way. At least that is the impression left by The Floating Book. A finer collection of miserable, unhappy, unpleasant characters could not be found gathered in one place than reside here.

Ostensibly a novel about Wendelin of Speyer and his brother Johann, the first printers in Venice, that is merely one of the frames that hold this otherwise rather sordid book together. Couched in elegant prose, the base affairs connecting historic figures Wendelin Speyer and artist Giovanni Bellini to a fictional sideshow of emotional dwarves, psychological cripples and other misfits dominate the narrative.

Purported letters of Catullus, the Roman poet whose star shone briefly at the time of Julius Caesar and Cicero forms the other frame, the two stories overlapping around the initial publication in Rome and the first printing in Venice fifteen hundred years later of his voluptuous poetry which had somehow survived in manuscript form the totalitarian ravages of Church dominance.

The Floating Book contains a combination of elements that interest me a great deal — the history of printing, the Renaissance, Venice herself and her art and customs — and I was therefore prepared to like the book and looked forward to reading it. However, although it represents a massive amount of research and polished writing and is replete with a surfeit of factoids and Renaissance lore, it fell short of expectations. The fact is, the story Michelle Lovric has written is filled with people who are not only flawed, but they commit the most egregious literary sin of all: they are boring.

I could go on, but why bother? Aside from the stylish writing and the historical setting, and Catullus's poems that serve as chapter epigraphs, I found little in the way of enjoyment in these pages. ( )
1 vote Poquette | Jan 10, 2015 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/12728926 ( )
  Nataliec7 | Jan 5, 2015 |
I loved the beginning and feel the ending is incredible; however, it just didn't grab me emotionally at all. I found the language very difficult to follow in places, the characters became confusing (and thus uninteresting), and some of the events totally unbelievable. Sometimes I felt like I was reading a spoof instead of a real mystery novel. After reading some of the other reviewers who loved this, I'm beginning to feel like I should go back and reread this. In short, this is not a "light" read - one has to stay with it and concentrate; then it certainly could be worth while. Perhaps I just didn't put the effort into it (sometimes I'm a lazy reader). ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 16, 2013 |
My first DNC of the year. This is one of the first books I started in 2012, and 4 weeks later am just over half way through. I'm only reading the odd, short, chapter here and there and it's becoming a chore to read.

It's not a bad book - Venetian woman, married to a German printer in the 1400s when printing is just beginning to take off in Venice, and trying to publish a long forgotten Roman poet. It's told in many different "Voices" including that of the wife, the husband, the Roman poet. Throw in a scarred Dalmatian Jewess with a penchant for sex with semi-strangers (who are not her husband), rich men, engravers, jewellers, haunted houses and this should be a great story....just tough for me to get through ( )
  nordie | Jan 25, 2012 |
A good historical novel, well researched, but the research does not get in the way of a rattling good read.. Tells the story of immigrant German printers taking the new invention to 15th century Venice. There is a parallel story of the 64BC Roman poet Catallus, whose love poetry is courageously printed in 15th century Catholic Venice by the German printers. The connection does not end there as Catallus' obsessional love for the woman and muse who inspired the poetry is similarly reflected in one of the young Venetian printers love for an immigrant femme fatale. This is a sensual novel that tackles some big themes; obsession, immigrants, witchcraft, Judaism and the barbarism of 15th century life. I wish I had read the authors note at the end of the book before reading the novel then I would not have wondered as I read through how many of the characters were fictional. Many of them are not.

Generally the writing is of a very good quality and the plot is well worked through and builds to a satisfying climax.. I am a succour for books about Venice one of my favourite European cities and the flavour of the city comes through well. There is also a brilliantly written account of a crossing of the alps woven into the plot. Michelle Lovrich manages to keep all the balls in the air as well as some telling phrases such as:

"I've come to the conclusion that every word we read sticks to our mind like like specks of oat in a pot, whether we like it or not"

"I deserve to be cuckolded better than that"

"Its not healthy for the soul to be sealed up in a bubble of just two people, no matter what rainbows appear inside"

Lovrich provides translations of snippets of the poetry of Catallus at the start of each chapter and I for one will be searching out some more. A novel with lots going on which I would recommend. ( )
2 vote baswood | Jan 8, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
A poet is like the birds of passage...They pass singingin the distance, the world Knows nothing of them except their voice... I was singing, my friends, as a man breathes, As a bird mourns, as the wind sighs, As murmurs float on flowing water. Lamartine, Le Poete Mourant
Dedication
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Greetings, my brother, Oh what forsaken crag of Asia Minor does this find hyou, soldier-boy?
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0060578564, Hardcover)

Venice, 1468. The beautiful yet heartless Sosia Simeon is making her mark on the city, driven by a dark compulsion to steal pleasure with men from all walks of life. Across the Grand Canal, Wendelin von Speyer has just arrived from Germany, bringing with him a cultural revolution: Gutenberg's movable type. Together with the young editor Bruno Uguccione and the seductive scribe Felice Feliciano, he starts the city's first printing press. Before long a love triangle develops between Sosia, Felice, and Bruno -- who has become entranced by the verse of Catullus, the Roman erotic poet. But a far greater scandal erupts when Wendelin tempts fate by publishing the poet -- and changes all of their lives forever.

Sosia, the heartless sensualist; Felice, a man who loves the crevices of the alphabet the way other men love the crevices of women; Lussieta, whose anguish gives the story its soulful heart: these and many other characters make The Floating Book an unforgettable experience for lovers of romance, history, and the printed word.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

In fifteenth-century Venice, a love triangle involving Bruno Uguccione, a seductive scribe, and a heartless Dalmatian woman is turned upside down when Wendelin von Speyer publishes an edition of Catullus using Gutenberg's movable type.

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